Delegation of the project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public Health and human rights oriented Drug Policy in South East Europe ” visits Bulgaria from 29 to 30 May. The visit is part of the efforts for the enlargement of the Network as an essential prerequisite for making it a strong and reliable partner.
The main aims of the visit are to: (a) present DPNSEE to the Bulgarian society, (b) build strong relationships, enhance contacts and improve drug policy dialogue with the relevant authorities, state institutions, policy makers and NGOs, (c) explore opportunities for partnerships and collaboration and (d) discuss possible applications of local civil society organizations for membership in DPNSEE. The experiences from Bulgaria, country that is in transition from communist to EU member state, are of interest, especially because it will hold the EU presidency in the first half of 2018.
The delegation consists of 3 people: Marios Atzemis, DPNSEE Board member, Milutin Milošević, Executive director and Sofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer, Diogenis (DPNSEE member organisation).
The first day of the visit, the delegation had an interesting exchange with Dr Vyara Georgieva, the Chief Expert in the Ministry of Health for the programmes financed by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Petar Tsintsarski, Consultant for the program Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS. The key learning points from this meeting are that the HIV/AIDS problem should be seen from various angles besides medical: cultural, social etc. and that financing services should be concentrated on the level of local communities.
During the meeting in the National Centre for Addiction with Momtchil Vassilev, Director of the National Focal Point on Drugs and Drug Addictions and Nikolay Butorin, Expert on Training Programmes, the delegation got a lot of data about drugs in the country. Improvement of Early Warning System for new psychoactive substances was an issue of joint interest.
For the second day of the visit, meetings were first scheduled with two civil society organisations: Initiative for Health Foundation and Centre for humane policy. Our colleagues gave us a realistic and open vies on the situation in the country, especially in the light of termination of the Global Fund support that will cause closing of services to drug users.
Dr Tsvetelina Raicheva, who recently directed the National Addiction Centre provided more statistics about the situation. At the Centre for the Study of Democracy the representatives of the network had a meeting with Mr. Dimitar Markov (Senior Analyst and Project Director, Law Program) and Mr. Atanas Rusev (Senior Analyst, Security Program). The Security program implements criminology research, actively contributes to the Bulgaria’s policy debate on organized crime and participates in projects on crime and security issues. The issues of inadequate funding and bureaucracy in the field of drugs were highlighted in this meeting as one of the biggest barriers at policy level. Moreover, the need for more action in the issue of immigration and its connection to drug use through several routes has to be identified and addressed.