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High levels of corruption still hinder a proper functioning of government and businesses in many countries in the Western Balkan and Turkey. In 2010, Transparency International, leading the global fight against corruption, published a report explaining why progress is lacking in these countries.
Countries seeking membership in the European Union (EU) have a range of requirements that must be met for entry into the union. Candidate and potential candidate countries, all of which can be found in South Eastern Europe, have the obligation to ‘show progress’ on, for example, their anticorruption efforts and broader areas of good governance before they are allowed to join. Yet such a stipulation is challenging for many of these countries and is often one of their greatest obstacles to EU accession. Based on findings from Transparency International’s
Corruption Perception Index (2010), most EU accession countries fall among the lowest two-thirds on the 178 country list – and significantly below the average score for European Union member states.1 Moreover, the rate of reported bribery for users of state services among EU accession countries (namely the Western Balkan nations and Turkey) is nearly four times what is measured among EU members. This article presents an overview of the progress in implementing anti-corruption laws in four candidate countries in South Eastern Europe: Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Turkey. What are the main obstacles in implementing these reforms?
The Western Balkan countries and Turkey view the opportunity of EU accession as a great motivating factor to adapt their anti-corruption laws to the European standard and make their governments more transparent. However, while EU progress reports on accession countries now assess anti-corruption and governance advances, there is no systematic set of indicators that are used. This prevents the creation of a baseline to measure sustained progress in specific areas, such as the passage and implementation of laws. It also makes it impossible to set benchmarks that qualify what accession countries need to do to secure entry. Entering the EU thus remains a moving target. Furthermore, legal reforms do not always equate with institutional and cultural changes. Transparency International
(TI) wanted to better capture and quantify this divergence. It organised a study of existing anti-corruption laws and their implementation in four accession and pre-accession countries: Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia and Turkey. Drawing on the EU requirements for membership, the study established a set of good practice indicators which focused on the judiciary, legislature and public sector. The findings, published in a 2011 report, underscore how the four countries have managed to put some notable legislation in place. Perhaps drawn by the allure of EU membership, reform initiatives in recent years have strengthened legal frameworks to address corruption risks in the three institutions assessed. However, the findings also reveal the ways in which low capacity and weak governance have created a startling gap between law and practice.
Understanding the Gaps
According to TI’s study, there are common crosscutting issues that are undermining anti-corruption progress across all the institutions and countries assessed by the report. These weaknesses have compromised the institutional resources, independence, transparency, accountability and integrity required to combat corruption and promote good governance. Each of the factors profiled on the previous page have undermined the ability of the judiciary, legislature, and the public sector to function with efficacy and efficiency. Unfortunately, such obstacles are not restricted to one institution but often are symptomatic of a chronic and persistent problem.
Why is progress lacking
The commonality of shortfalls across all four countries and institutions signals that the deficits run deeper than a simple failure to pass pending reforms. The implementation failures must be understood and corrected as part of moving each country towards EU accession. Below is a brief overview of some of the specific challenges in each of the four countries.
To start with Albania. According to recent assessments, some of the greatest challenges compromising the country’s integrity are the implementation gaps in its anti-corruption legal framework, the lack of judicial impartiality and low professionalism of its law enforcement.
Findings have shown that the judiciary and legal system in Albania is considered the second most corrupt institution in the country.5 With the courts seen as biased, there is a lack of motivation to fight corruption and perceived ineffectiveness of law enforcement. Moreover, parliamentarians, ministers and judges in Albania continue to have ex-officio immunity, blocking attempts to prosecute high-ranking officials.
In Kosovo, public opinion largely points to the worsening situation of corruption in the country. Of those polled, 73 per cent said that corruption has increased in the last three years; more than 60 per cent classified the country’s fight against corruption as ineffective.6 Political parties in the country were considered the most corrupted institution, followed by the judiciary.7 Although the country has adopted a wide-range of legislation, most of it is not being implemented or it lacks provisions for strong sanctions. For example, implementation failures of the country’s access to information laws have been well-documented.
Similar to Kosovo, anti-corruption implementation gaps in Macedonia are seen as complicating the country’s integration process with the EU. While Macedonian legislation allows for comprehensive anti-corruption provisions, low capacity on the part of public institutions, as well as governance and integrity issues, have compromised the laws’ application. Many of the relevant institutions in the country have insufficient budgets and independence from the executive.
For example, political interference in the appointment and dismissal of judges can later result in biased court decisions, thus undermining the judicial system. Other challenges include the lack of integrity of public officials due to poor implementation of codes of conduct. Finally, there is a lack of relevant and effective education and training of public officials responsible for the implementing anti- corruption legislation. In Turkey, low levels institutional capacity (e.g. financial, human and technical) have affected the fulfilment of duties legally designated to the judiciary, legislature and public administration.
This has resulted in increased inefficiencies and opportunities for corruption. For example, Turkey has some of the highest rates of petty bribery (33 per cent) among public sector services in the region9 and the country’s civil service is viewed as Turkey’s most corrupt institution.10 A deep-rooted tradition of a protected, secretive state has meant that concepts like ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘ethical behaviour’ are relatively new and not fully embraced concepts. Immunity laws that protect officials from prosecution have created apathy among the public that corruption can be combated and would require societal changes – and the political will - to address it.
Areas for reform
Addressing the identified obstacles in the fight against corruption can help all four countries advance towards meeting related EU governance requirements. Regionally this would involve measures to improve institutional transparency, accountability, integrity, independence and resources. Specific areas for action in each country include the following.
Ensuring a meritocracy-based public administration and promotion of civil servants; reforming and regulating the function and organisation of the judiciary and parliament (National Assembly); publishing, drafting and making publicly available periodic reports on the activities of public institutions; and prosecuting all individuals accused of corruption.
Ensuring that the Kosovo Anti-corruption Agency and other relevant oversight bodies have the capacity to monitor compliance and punish violations; monitoring and sanctioning political interference in other branches of government; ensuring the full implementation of merit-based and competitive criteria for public sector positions and political appointments; and strengthening independent oversight institutions, such as the Independent Oversight Board of Civil Service, and the Procurement Review Body, as well as the Anti-Corruption Agency.
Allowing the judiciary to prepare and propose its own budget and defend it in front of the National Assembly (parliament); developing a precise merit-based system for the selection and promotion of judges; approving a specific law for the effective, systematic and institutional protection of whistleblowers; introducing a provision to the Law on Public Servants for a merit-based system of hiring; and introducing further amendments to legislation in order to strengthen the role of the National Assembly (e.g. audit findings; increased accountability of members of parliament, etc.).
Ensuring the separation of powers among the institutions; approving a new law to regulate political campaign and party financing; limiting the immunities provided to members of parliament; guaranteeing citizens’ right to information and punishing non-compliance; and providing transparent and merit-based civil service recruitment.
For these actions to be successful locally and regionally, they require support. The international community (including the European Commission and regional organisations) has a responsibility to provide resources and policy guidance to ensure they are advanced. National governments, for their part, must have the resolve and political will to make the necessary governance shifts. Throughout the process, all actors, including civil society, must get engaged to ensure that the key governance deficits that prevent EU accession are effectively closed.
is senior policy coordinator at Transparency International.
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Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2011: The rule of law
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