EUROPE - The World Bank has opened a centre for financial reporting reform (CFRR) in Vienna, to aid countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia in their transition to international accounting and reporting standards.
The CFRR (www.worldbank.org/cfrr) will assess countries' accounting and reporting system before suggesting changes and helping to implement them.
The World Bank will also offer training courses for civil servants in countries participating in the "Road to Europe: Program of Accounting Reform and Institutional Strengthening" (REPARIS) programme such as Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia Montenegro. Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine are participating in some regional activities.
"Financial reporting reform was only second on the list of things to do for countries in this region," Shigeo Katsu, World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia, said at the opening ceremony.
"First, companies had to be made responsible for their own reporting and now the countries are ready for the second step of introducing international accounting standards. We do not want compliance but we want companies and associations to take part actively."
"The European dimension of this topic also was a challenge for Austria when we joined the EU - but it was good for us," commented Wilhelm Molterer, Austrian finance minister.
Introduction of international financial reporting standards, including IAS19, for members of the European Union triggered changes to the retirement provision arrangements in companies as the new accounting rules shed light on hidden defined benefit liabilities.
Molterer pointed out Western Europe also still had a lot of work to do on accounting standards.
"Arrangements will never be perfect because times are changing - as the recent market turbulences have once again shown us," he said.
"You have already lost if you sit back and think you've got it all figured out. We have to be open for constant changes."
For this to happen, co-operation between financial supervisory bodies in various countries was vital, he added.
Katsu noted the World Bank chose Vienna as basis for its new operations because of the country's "historic relations with Central and South-Eastern Europe".
"Austria is one of those countries who played a key role since 1989 and it has gone back to being at the centre of Europe," he said.
Offices in Vienna will become the organisation's second-largest European operations after Paris. The CFRR currently has a staff of seven which will be increased to 20 by the end of June 2008.