BELGRADE – “Corruption is not a sporadic phenomenon but a practice that immensely affects all countries in the region, so the coordination of efforts in the fight against it is a crucial element in guaranteeing reforms and concrete results,” states the latest policy brief.
The brief published by the Southeast Europe Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI) Network, titled “International and Regional Cooperation: Transcending Borders in the Fight against Corruption”, points out that a potent instrument for efficiently combating the corruption issue is international and regional cooperation.
“The majority of Western Balkan nations have accepted and/or signed the key international anti-corruption treaties. They still need to make additional reforms in this area, under the close supervision of foreign partners, as their legislative frameworks and practices are still not entirely following international standards,” reads the brief.
It recalls that the monitoring reports in which the Western Balkans’ legislation and other restrictions have generally complied with UN anti-corruption requirements.
However, it is stated that not all of the law has been updated to completely comply with these criteria. Illicit enrichment, for instance, is not regarded as a crime in Albania, Montenegro, or Serbia because it is not listed in those countries’ criminal codes.
“Regular monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the anti-corruption standards in the Western Balkan countries by international institutions should continue. Reports provided by these institutions are significant because they reflect the alignment of the country’s legal framework and practices with the anti-corruption standards while putting considerable pressure on governments of the region,” the brief notes.
Moreover, it provides an overview of the regional networks that play an important role in facilitating CSOs’ participation in the fight against corruption, with SELDI being one of the most significant in the Western Balkan region.
“SELDI’s goal is to support the development of a vibrant civil society in the area that can engage in public discourse and have an impact on decisions around anti-corruption and good governance,” explains the brief.
Furthermore, it notes that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on foreign travel have made regional and international collaboration more intense. Due to reduced frequency and opportunity for field trips, conferences, and workshops that benefited institutions’ operations, online work became the norm for worldwide and regional CSO cooperation schemes.
However, the policy brief points out one problem – governments continue to disregard CSOs throughout the Western Balkans, instead of being involved in investigating, observing, and disclosing corruption.
“CSOs are an indispensable factor in the fight against corruption. Therefore, their capability to monitor the implementation of anti-corruption standards, provide expertise in policy-making, and utilise advocacy for further strengthening of the anti-corruption processes should be reinforced,“ concluded the authors.
On the other hand, when it comes to combating corruption, providing financial and technical support to governments and CSOs is of the utmost importance because it is a very complicated subject that necessitates an exchange of experiences and best practices between countries.
“Support of international partners is vital, yet the funds provided are not sufficiently transparent. International funded projects, with particular emphasis on IPA funds, should be carefully evaluated,” reads the brief.
The brief highlights the recommendations and priorities contained in the reports of international organizations like GRECO and the European Commission, noting that governments ought to turn these suggestions into detailed action plans that will track the accountability of all actors.
As one of the key recommendations, the policy brief notes the collaboration between governments at the regional, national, and international levels.
“To achieve compliance with international standards and fulfil recommendations, international partners provide comprehensive assistance to the countries of the Western Balkans. One of the most important allies and biggest donors in the fight against corruption in the Western Balkans is the European Union,” authors recall.
They explain that the aspirations of the Western Balkan countries to join the European Union serve as an important incentive for political and economic change, as they must adhere to European principles and meet the requirements for membership to become members.
To conclude, the brief emphasises that although Kosovo participates in international forums through the efforts of CSOs, full membership in regional initiatives and full cooperation with other nations could provide stronger anti-corruption outcomes.
This article was published as part of the project “Civil society for good governance and anti-corruption in southeast Europe: Capacity building for monitoring, advocacy and awareness-raising (SELDI)” funded by the European Union.