Supporting growth in South-East Europe: Financial reporting and auditing play a critical role

May 31, 2012

World Bank conference convenes ministers and senior officials in Vienna

VIENNA, May 31, 2012 – Ministers and senior officials from seven countries of South-East Europe and Moldova, participating in the Road to Europe - Program of Accounting Reform and Institutional Strengthening (REPARIS), as well as representatives from the EU, other European countries and international bodies, gathered in Vienna for the third REPARIS Ministerial Conference on 31 May.

Participating ministers and senior officials reviewed the progress that their countries have made in enhancing their financial reporting systems and aligning them with EU legislation.

As part of their efforts to support economic growth and to integrate more closely with the EU, most countries in the program have introduced new accounting laws. Countries are also strengthening their educational systems as well as the capacity of their accounting professions. Several countries are now moving to the next stage of reform by setting up the systems of public oversight and quality control that are needed to ensure that the new accounting rules are implemented consistently and reliably in practice.

The ministers and senior officials discussed how improved financial reporting helps reduce the barriers to business investment, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), thus helping to boost competitiveness and economic growth. They also discussed what further measures with regard to the EU’s new accounting directive (including special provisions for microenterprises), audit oversight and quality assurance need to be taken and how REPARIS can help them implement financial reporting reform.

In his opening address to the conference, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, Philippe Le Houerou, acknowledged that the financial crisis had left the countries of Europe and Central Asia with higher levels of public debt, weakened financial sectors, and historically high levels of unemployment. The crisis unveiled weaknesses that called for deep structural reforms. In response to these challenges, one of the main pillars of the World Bank´s strategy has been support for reforms to improve competitiveness.

Good public and corporate governance is not a luxury, but a necessity for sustainable growth. The work of REPARIS on financial reporting is critical to the competitiveness agenda. It is also an important aspect of good governance, which requires transparency and integrity both in the public and the private sector”, said Le Houerou.

The Governments of Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg are the main supporters of REPARIS.

One program cannot tackle all the challenges we are facing. It must be selective to use its limited resources most effectively to deliver upon its agreed objectives. REPARIS is able to achieve just that. REPARIS helps to build and strengthen institutions to make the financial system more stable and to create a business climate conducive to promote growth and employment.”, highlighted Andreas Schieder, State Secretary in the Austrian Ministry of Finance in his opening remarks.

Ms. Biljana Šćekić, Deputy Minister of Finance of Montenegro, underlined the following: “Montenegro has been a part of the REPARIS program from its very beginning, and as a candidate country of the European Union, we are serious about completing our Accounting and Audit Reform journey.

This is important […] to deliver a climate that will enable our small young country to compete for investment and jobs in the new reality that is the Europe of today.”

Gerhard Schumann-Hitzler, Director, Financial Instruments and Regional Programmes at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement emphasized the importance of regional initiatives like REPARIS in improving the business environment, especially for SMEs, in the countries of the Western Balkans.

The conference was organized as part of the REPARIS program, which supports the efforts of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia to introduce effective and EU-compliant systems of financial reporting. REPARIS was launched in 2009 for a period of five years. The program is managed by the World Bank Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR), based in Vienna.

On the occasion of the Ministerial Conference, the CFRR is organizing in Vienna three technical workshops covering key aspects of the corporate financial reporting agenda relevant to policymakers, financial regulators, and professional accountancy organizations in the REPARIS countries.