Transparency International on Tuesday released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index report, which found that 86 percent of the 180 countries and territories have made little or no progress in fighting corruption in the past 10 years.
The report, which analyzes last year’s developments, highlights the link between corruption and the level of democracy and human rights, from the most corrupt countries to the most advanced economies.
“Authoritarian approaches destroy the independent system of independent controls and balances and make anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of the elite. “The guarantee that people can speak freely and work collectively to hold power accountable is the only sustainable path to a society free of corruption.” .
Transparency International uses an index calculation system from zero to 100 points, where zero is the highest level of corruption and 100 points means no corruption. Albania has had a drop of one point compared to last year, from 36 to 35 points. While Kosovo has marked improvement, with 39 points, three points higher than a year ago. Northern Macedonia improved by four points, from 35 to 39, while Montenegro is among the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia with the highest number of points, 46 in the Corruption Perception Index.
At the top of the list, with the lowest level of corruption this year are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, while Somalia, Syria and South Sudan have the worst situation. For the first time, the report also provides a comparative analysis of the state of corruption in the last ten years. Eastern Europe and Central Asia is second in the world in terms of high corruption.
Last year, the way governments used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to suppress civil liberties and perpetuate a lack of transparency continued to stand out. “We can say that this year we are not seeing any major change in the Western Balkans region in terms of the Corruption Perception Index. “And I would say that this is bad news, because as countries make greater economic, political, social progress and citizens feel the effects of reforms and their lives improve, we need to see much better results.” , Lidija Prokic, Transparency International’s Advisor for Eastern and Southeastern Europe, told VOA. “In the Western Balkans region, we see mainly stagnation, but the stagnation comes after a serious decline and this does not convey any hopeful message,” she added.
Albania has had a drop of one point compared to last year, from 36 to 35 points. “In Albania, journalists face lawsuits and intimidation, including excessive control of information regarding reactions to COVID-19. “Furthermore, concerns about police violence during protests and violations of freedom of assembly have been recorded throughout the pandemic,” the report said.
Ms. Prokic confirms this.
“There have been attempts to pass laws that seriously restrict freedom of expression. And these may not seem to be directly related to anti-corruption, but they really are. “For anti-corruption mechanisms to work well, for countries to succeed in the fight against corruption, they need free media, they need a free civil society,” she said.
Ms. Prokic also says that “some disproportionate reactions of law enforcement forces have been noticed when it comes to public protests, protests of citizens.” The report says the pandemic was also used as an excuse to reduce oversight and accountability for public procurement and foreign aid spending, allowing corruption to spread widely.
“Our concern about public procurement in the Western Balkans, including Albania, is the fact that governments have used the Covid pandemic as a pretext for not providing information on public spending,” she said. Ms. Prokic acknowledges that changes to the law on public procurement are going in the right direction, but stresses that they must be implemented “consistently, impartially and without exception.” Ms. Prokic says that more important than a one-point drop or rise in the Corruption Perceptions Index is the general trend.
“When we talk about Albania this year, the result is 35 points, while for example, ten years ago, Albania’s result was 33 points, so we can only say that there has been very little progress in this 10-year period. “And this is certainly not something we can be optimistic about,” said Ms Prokic. She says steps such as approving electoral reform are important, but implementation is more important.
In the last decade, the lowest level was in 2013, while the highest in 2016 when justice reform was adopted. Ms. Prokic says that throughout the Western Balkans, including of course Albania, governments tend to tackle anti-corruption by adopting regulations and amending laws. “Justice reform in Albania has made significant progress so far and what we see as particularly positive is that some cases are being handled by the Special Anti-Corruption Structure,” she said.
“What is missing is the political will for real change, change of practices, change of institutional behavior, at the same time that changes in laws are approved and new regulations are undertaken.” In the face of considerable control by the ruling party and a weakened opposition from the civil war, Ms. Prokic says that “the concentration of power is a serious problem when it comes to the effectiveness of the fight against corruption, but it is also a problem from the point of view of democracy and society in general ”.
“Of course every government has to be held accountable and that probably applies even more to governments that have been in power for a very long time. The Albanian government often says that the country is ready to join the European Union. “However, this has not been accompanied by democratic changes that are important to become part of the European Union, but also because citizens need these changes simply for a better life,” she said.
Kosovo has improved, by 39 points, three points higher than a year ago. “There have been peaceful power transitions between governments in Kosovo in recent years,” the report said. Also according to the report, the country showed a sincere willingness to fight corruption, investigating leaders accused of corruption.
“The situation is not ideal yet, but some steps have been taken in the right direction in terms of financing political parties and campaigns,” said Ms. Prokic. Kosovo was the only country in the region and one of only five countries in Europe that did not transfer decision-making powers to the executive but retained them in parliament.
“We can say with certainty that the fact that efforts have been made to reflect the will of the citizens even in the most difficult times, is a responsible decision by the government and in our opinion it is very important that even in exceptional circumstances the institutions “they continue to play their role,” said Ms Prokic. In 10 years, Kosovo has had an increase of five points, from 34 in 2012, to 39 in 2021./VOA