SKOPJE – What do recent US anticorruption efforts mean for the Western Balkans? What are the expected effects of an enhanced focus on anticorruption? Can we expect that focus to move anticorruption higher on the agendas of local governments? What can the EU and the US do to prevent democratic backsliding and promote good governance to fend off authoritarian influence and corrosive capital in the region?
The European Union has invested in improving governance and rule of law in the Western Balkans and has committed up to 30 billion in its new economic and investment plan. The EU and member states have significant potential leverage through conditionality and assistance mechanisms, given the ambition of Western Balkan states to join the European Union. The EU must ensure that candidate countries have resilient good governance if they are to be constructive members of the Union.
At the same time, through its Democracy Action Plan and the Rule of Law report, the EU has strengthened the case for better governance within the Union, signalling a stronger commitment to candidate countries.
The EU and the United States have cooperated on advancing good governance and democratic development agenda in the Trans-Atlantic space, further enabling positive changes in Southeast Europe. The impact of any current and future assistance depends on improving governance.
On December 7, the US announced its Strategy on Countering Corruption as a whole-of-government approach to elevate the anticorruption fight. In June 2021, President Biden identified the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States. The White House launched its “Summit for Democracy” for a select group of invited governments in December 2021, with anticorruption as a core pillar of the effort. The Summit encourages partner nations to take specific, concrete steps achievable within a year.
On their road to broader European integration, the Western Balkan countries have an opportunity to improve regional cooperation between critical anticorruption authorities, mostly in law enforcement and prevention institutions. It would signal an organic commitment to the rule of law and provides an environment where national actors contribute to regional development.
At the same time, rising geopolitical tensions have the potential to pull resources and attention away from domestic reform, thus potentially making anticorruption efforts more difficult to achieve.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a strong example and is a game-changer for EU’s enlargement: Will the Western Balkans stay firmly aligned with EU and transatlantic values? It is both a threat and an opportunity. It is up to the EU and local governments, and civil society and other democratic stakeholders to carry progress through these difficult times.
These are some of the topics that will be discussed at the Regional Policy Forum. The event is organized by The Institute for Democracy ‘Societas Civilis’ Skopje, The Macedonian Center for International Cooperation on behalf of the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integrity Network (SELDI), and is supported by the Delegation of the European Union in Skopje, the project “The Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus” supported by US Embassy in North Macedonia, and USAID through its Civic Engagement Project.
These topics will be discussed at the Regional Policy Forum “The Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus”, which will take place on April 7, 2022, at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Skopje as a hybrid event.
The goal of the event is to provide an impetus to ongoing and necessary anticorruption reforms and discuss ways of improving cooperation between international, governmental, and civic actors.The event will bring together ministers of justice from the Western Balkans, civil society leaders, editors of investigative journalist desks, international representatives of the US, the EU, the UN, and the region.