Corruption – a European problem
26 July 2010
It’s a commonplace to say that corruption is a plague that overruns the Balkans. On 20 July, a report published by the European Commission voiced grave concerns over the effectiveness and independence of the judicial systems in Romania and to a lesser extent in Bulgaria. In 2007, the implementation of measures to combat corruption was one of the key conditions for the accession of both countries to the EU. And it is on this basis that the 2000 reform and extension of the the scope of the country’s anti-corruption legislation remains one of the most important laws to be adopted in post-communist Romania. However, in the decade that followed, several public anti-corruption have campaigns have come and gone without delivering satisfactory results.
In Sofia, the government will be pleased that the European Commission praised its “strong political will” to combat corruption. However, in Bucharest President Traian Băsescu, who was none to happy with the Commission’s assertion that his country was not meeting its European Union obligations, insisted that criticism of his country was exaggerated. His argument with the report is largely based on the following reasoning: corruption prevails when private interests undermine the probity of official process. The perception that corruption is part and parcel of doing business in Balkan member states has meant that most companies operating in these countries feel obliged to offer bribes, and they claim that if they did not resort to this practice they would quickly be overwhelmed by bureaucracy. As a result, corruption has become the norm, and the issue should be approached differently.
On the initiative of Romanian MEP Monica Macovei, on 6 May the European Parliament endorsed a declaration demanding a clear EU policy against corruption and a mechanism to regularly monitor the situation in member states. As a study published by geopolitical news website Diploweb.com has demonstrated in its analysis of the NGO Transparency International’s rankings, corruption is a phenomenon that affects all of Europe – and in particular Greece, Italy and Spain. In view of these conditions, should supervision be limited to countries that are entering the EU? Would it not be wiser to subject all of the EU’s member states to ongoing evaluation, which is certainly somewhat embarrassing, but nonetheless useful and even necessary? The success of the drive to combat corruption will ultimately depend on the recognition of the scope of the problem everywhere in the EU.