Western Balkans and state of Corruption

Author: Aleksandar Vanchoski

Although 30 years have passed after the democratic changes in Western Balkans societies, they are still facing with serious problems in the efforts for establishing strong and sustainable democratic institutions and processes. The aspirations and efforts of Western Balkans countries for European Union full membership significantly contributed for their democratization and it has been the main driver for improvement of their political and legal systems. All of the Western Balkans countries are facing various challenges on their path to EU membership but the most common issue that all the countries are facing with is the corruption. The problem of corruption in the Western Balkans countries is well noted in the annual reports published by the EU Commission progress reports. From the data presented in these annual reports could be seen that every year there are some remarks and comments regarding efficiency of the national anti-corruption mechanisms and about the necessity for establishing reliable instruments for corruption risk assessment and prevention activities. Furthermore, the annual rankings of the Transparency International (TI) regarding the perceived levels of corruption (published as Corruption Perception Index (CPI)), continuously are showing that Western Balkan countries have earned low rankings in the area of fighting the corruption and in the past 10 years have not done improvements which can produce some significant results. Corruption is indeed one of the main concerns of the ordinary citizens in the Western Balkan countries because it is hindering the economic and social development. Additionally, the experience is showing that corruption is one of the factors that is contributing for slow EU accession process of these countries.

Corruption in the Western Balkans countries is present at both levels, at grand and administrative (petty) level, although for instance in the case of Kosovo there are concerning indicators that show some manifestations of an endemic corruption. The presents of the corruption in Western Balkans countries are resulting with endangering the principle of rule of law; hindering of equal access to public services; jeopardizing the basic principles and rules of the democratic electoral system; distrust of the citizens in the public institutions and creating difficulties for economic and social development. Furthermore, it is noticeable that the corruptive practices in Western Balkans are causing serious undermining of their political systems in the form of direct and indirect manipulations which on the end leads to so called situation of "captured political systems" or "captured states" (practices visible in all states in the region). In this context especially worrying fact is the wide spread notion of impunity among the political actors in Western Balkans countries and the absence of political and criminal accountability.

Fighting the corruption effectively requires the implementation of specific, well-targeted measures. Although all Western Balkans countries have already adopted national anti-corruption programmes, strategies and action plans, there is an evident need for more efficient implementation of these provisions and measures in practice. Moreover, all Western Balkans countries have very poor track record for prosecuting corruption and especially high-profile corruption cases in which high ranking politicians or wealthy private businessmen are prosecuted. This actually shows that these countries have weak justice systems and politicized and inefficient law enforcement institutions – issues that imposed the question whether the rule of law principle exist.

The above-mentioned practices actually keep citizens of Western Balkans countries in semi-democratic societies and out of the EU membership all these years. It is evident that prevention and criminalization of the corruption in Western Balkans should be addressed in more efficient manner and have to be strictly guided by the principles of rule of law and good governance. Furthermore, EU as well must adopt new approach in providing assistance to Western Balkans countries in order to enhance their anti-corruption policies and to improve their enforcement in practice.

Published on 11.12.2020