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Candidate countries backsliding in fight against corruption

Transparency International published this week its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018. A majority of the top 20 countries this year are EU member states. The candidate countries that are aspiring to become member states, by 2025 at the earliest, are much further down in the ranking despite EU support. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of just 43. 

The corruption index reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world, says Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International.

While the validity of the ranking for a certain year and country can be put into question, changes or lack of changes over time do give rise to a useful debate on underlying casual factors and actual corruption cases. In the candidate countries, Turkey and Western Balkans countries, the trend is worrying and should raise an alarm signal.

Despite firm EU conditions on curbing corruption and ensuring institutions are free of political influence, many governments across the region fail to show true commitment to democracy and the rule of law, writes Transparency International.

If a government and its public administration are perceived as corrupt, citizens will have less trust in them and foreign investors may stay away. Among the candidate countries hardly any country has improved it score since 2015.  Four out of the seven countries have seen minor drops in their scores since last year.

Turkey (41) and Macedonia (37) are the only countries that slightly increased their scores in 2018.  While Albania increased its score in the past, it dropped two points in 2018 (36). Serbia dropped two points last year (39). Kosovo (37), Bosnia and Herzegovina (38) and Montenegro (45) have either declined in their score or continue to stagnate.

Asked by The Brussels Times to comment on the figures, a source in the European Commission replied that it has taken careful note of the corruption perceptions index. “The Commission is currently assessing the rule of law in the Western Balkans for the upcoming enlargement annual reports.”

The Commission also refers to its Strategy for the Western Balkans, launched a year ago. The strategy highlights the fight against corruption a crucial area where reforms are needed to meet the EU membership criteria.

More specifically on Serbia, the Commissions expects a stronger commitment, notably through forcefully addressing alleged cases of high-level corruption, prioritising anti- corruption measures in vulnerable areas such as privatisation, political activities financing and public procurement, and increasing transparency in all areas.

Recent developments in Albania are also critical for its EU path. “The vetting process is a good example of a strong effort to free the judiciary from corruption. The formation in December 2018 of the new judicial bodies has now also triggered the formation of the new specialised investigative and judicial chain against corruption and organised crime.”

The Brussels Times