About 300 delegates including ministers of finance, senior government experts, and representatives of the business, professional and academic communities gathered today to discuss the role financial information plays in supporting economic development, regional and global integration of economies, and convergence of income and living standards between poorer and richer countries. The conference took place under the auspices of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and was organized by the World Bank’s Centre for Financial Reporting Reform (CFRR).

“The European Union offers powerful examples on how economic integration can help propel growth in poorer and newer member states. While integration can help these countries boost their income and living standards, convergence with richer economies is not automatic,” said Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. “Policy makers must equip their citizens and enterprises to compete through transparent and effective public initiatives to build skills and competitiveness. High-quality financial information for the public and private sectors can help governments deliver on these initiatives with accountability and efficiency, while improving access to finance."

Addressing the audience on behalf of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Hartwig Loeger, Minister of Finance of Austria, said, “As a long-term partner of the CFRR, the Austrian Government is excited to see the strong interest and continued level of commitment from the countries represented today to achieving reform in their public and private sector financial reporting systems. The Austrian Ministry of Finance contributes to advancing the closer integration with our neighbors, by supporting selected programs of the World Bank Group that are focusing on the ECA region and the Western Balkans in particular.”

Conference participants discussed how countries can earn the confidence of their citizens by strengthening their institutions and creating a regulatory environment that facilitates fair and open competition; reducing undue burdens on business, particularly small and medium-size enterprises; facilitating access to finance; and delivering needed public services more efficiently. Effective financial management and good governance in both the private and public sectors help make institutions become more transparent, accountable and trusted.

Policy makers are well-aware of their role in embracing and implementing effective legal frameworks and regulations. A high-level panel discussion with Ministers of Finance from Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia confirmed the main conference messages and discussed specific initiatives under way.

Speaking about his country’s recent experience, Bedri Hamza, Minister of Finance of Kosovo, said, “The redrafting of the law on accounting, auditing and financial reporting in a way that also reflects the local environment and conditions has been a great achievement for Kosovo and there are ongoing efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Kosovar Oversight Institution and set up a quality assurance system.”

Dragan Tevdovski, Minister of Finance of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, highlighted that “the country enacted a new audit legislation that established a professional institution for statutory auditors and initiated a quality assurance system for the audit profession, which are excellent achievements. Ongoing amendments to the Law on Performance of Accountancy Services and work to strengthen the capacity of the Institute of Accountants and Certified Accountants is high on our priority agenda with the intention to significantly improve the quality of financial information data in our country.”

Discussions also included the impact of digital innovation on generation, dissemination, verification, and use of financial information; new opportunities to create more transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors; and the role international standards play in economic and financial integration.

The event was organized as part of programs for Public-Sector Accounting and Reporting (PULSAR), Road to Europe: Program of Accounting Reform and Institutional Strengthening (EU-REPARIS), and Strengthening Auditing and Reporting in the Countries of the Eastern Partnership (STAREP). These programs are supported by the European Union, the Austrian Development Agency, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs. The regional programs support enhanced financial reporting practices in the private and public sectors, in the Western Balkans and EU-Eastern Partnership countries. The Ministerial Conference took place one day after a workshop of representatives from the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe to discuss reform progress and lessons learned in the area of financial reporting.

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