Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

EU not tackling corruption in east, say justice experts

  • A view of Zagreb, where EU leverage against organised crime and widespread corruption is not working properly, according to a panel of justice experts. (Photo: wikipedia)

The EU should use the most of its pre-accession leverage in pushing countries to reform and deliver results in the fight against corruption and organised crime before they join the club, not to repeat the experience of Romania and Bulgaria, who are still struggling with these issues two years after accession, a panel of European justice experts told a conference in the European Parliament.

EU member states Romania and Bulgaria have more in common with candidate countries such as Croatia and other potential candidates in the western Balkans than just a shared Communist past, said a range of jurists and commentators brought together under at the International Leaders' Summit, a talk-fest organised by conservative US and European think-tanks, including the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The speakers said that much of the east is also afflicted by "widespread corruption", "organised crime", conflicts of interests and unjustifiable wealth of senior officials, lack of political accountability and a culture of impunity in public administration.

The list of criticisms was long, but, they declared, the EU seems ill equipped to do something about it.

"There are clear regional characteristics that appear across eastern Europe and the risk is that the lessons we learn in one country as it develops are not transferred to the next country," British prosecutor Rupert Vining said.

"We repeatedly see difficulties around party finances," he continued. "We also see the issue of possession of unexplained wealth by senior public figures."

Mr Vining worked as an expert on combating corruption in "peer review" missions on behalf of the European Commission to assess the situation in Romania and Bulgaria during their accession process, as well as in the now candidate country Croatia and potential candidate Montenegro.

He told the audience that he had thought before he went that it would be difficult to explain to the people in the region what unjustified assets meant and how they could be dealt with.

"But instead, I had no difficulty at all, because in each country I worked, people could immediately think of examples of who had what and how they couldn't possibly afford it on the €300 to €600 salary they were earning per month," Mr Vining said.

The British prosecutor stressed that the EU does not have unified rules and procedures on issues such as party financing. Still, that was no reason not to reform and impose as much transparency as possible, he said, because there was a "new era now, and people in the EU are getting tired of accession candidates who don't apply the appropriate standards and then backslide when they join the EU."

At the same time, Mr Vining argued that it was not realistic to believe that accession candidate countries can "fry the big fish", or deliver convictions in complex cases of high-level corruption in the very short time frame ahead of accession, especially since the people concerned are in power or connected to high-ranking officials.

Monica Macovei, a former Romanian justice minister acclaimed by the European Commission and the European Parliament for her reforms on the eve of EU accession, also stressed the difficulties of "fighting political corruption in a country where corrupt politicians have the power to change laws and adopt measures to protect themselves."

The former minister, a member of no political party and fired just four months after accession during a cabinet reshuffle, said that after Romania joined the EU, the politicians started to "undo" the reforms started only a couple of years before.

Ms Macovei said the pre-accession period was the only time the EU had enough leverage to push for actual reforms and obtain first results.

Yet a Croatian panelist, Natasha Srdoc from the pro-free-market Adriatic Institute of Public Policy, denounced the "very soft report" published by the European Commission earlier this month on the progress of her country.

She criticised the perspective of concluding negotiations by the end of 2009 - a schedule suggested by enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, and denounced the recent contract killings of critical journalists, and the "widespread corruption" noted in the commission report.

She also warned of the strength of organised crime in the country, saying there was a "much stronger underground network than in Serbia, [and this] includes the intelligence services."

"There is not enough pressure now to reform before accession to the EU and NATO. Once a country is in the EU, the chances for reforms are lost," Ms Srdoc said, demanding "international monitoring" of Croatia, as the authorities were, in her view, incapable of dealing with these challenges.

Murder of Croatian reporter undermines EU hopes

Following the killing of a prominent investigative reporter, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has vowed to put a stop to mafia-style attacks in order to save the country's EU bid.

Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes

The former Bosnian Serb warlord was sentenced to life in prison for committing genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. Mladic is still regarded as a 'hero' among some Bosnian Serbs, in a country undergoing resurgent nationalism.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  2. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  3. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  4. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  5. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  6. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  7. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  8. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  2. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  3. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  4. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  6. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  7. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  8. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  10. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  11. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future