Protests in Bosnia. Sarajevo, 2014. Photo: cc Stefano Giantin/flickr

Anti-Corruption Report for the West Balkans

Measure corruption in order to fight it

Corruption is the second name of many Balkan countries. In order to address it, we need deeper analysis and less prejudice. The European Commission has developed a sound methodology to assess corruption in its member states, leading to the first EU Anti-Corruption Report in 2014. The European Commission should apply this methodology to produce West Balkans Anti-Corruption reports every two years.

ESI discussion paper: Measuring corruption – The case for deep analysis and a simple proposal (19 March 2015)

In 2013, more Germans than Kosovars perceived their media as "corrupt" or "extremely corrupt". The same was true regarding the military, religious bodies, NGOs, businesses, public officials and civil servants. These were findings of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the most widely cited corruption ranking.

Perceptions can indicate problems. But they are dangerous and misleading when they are not qualified by other sources of information. Perceptions are not a good basis for plans of action. What is needed is deeper analysis of what exactly is wrong and a credible tool to track performance.

From 2011 to 2014 the European Commision engaged a team of specialists from all over Europe to develop a comprehensive methodology. In February 2014, it published a Special Eurobarometer on corruption covering all 28 EU member states and a Flash Eurobarometer on business attitudes towards corruption in the EU. These surveys, based on polling 1,000 individuals and 300 companies in each EU country, became the key input for the 2014 EU Anti-Corruption Report.

The report showed significant differences between perception and actual experience of corruption in several EU member states. It measured experiences of corruption in different sectors. It exposed concrete individual problems and provided policy advice for EU member states (which some of them considered so hard-hitting that they made sure there would never be a second report.)

The Western Balkans would strongly benefit from such reports, to be published every two years, helping to measure the dimensions of the problem in various sectors, helping to target anti-corruption policies and measure progress over time.

In Brussels in December 2017 Macedonia's prime minister Zoran Zaev has already asked for such reports to be prepared for his country:

"Macedonia would like to be subjected to the in-depth methodology for measuring corruption developed by Commissioner Malmstrom for use within the EU. We are not afraid to be assessed objectively, and if this helps produce as little corruption in Macedonia as in Scandinavia everyone wins – the citizens above all."

What is needed in discussions of corruption in the Balkans is depth, not shallowness, and statements based on serious analysis, not preconceptions. The European Commission has the tool to ensure this. It only has to use it. If corruption is serious business, its assessment should be as well.