Round Table: The Anti-Corruption Agenda for Southeast Europe after the 2016 Enlargement Package: How to Break the State Capture Deadlock and Make Enlargement Deliver Again?

RAS researcher, Valentina Dimulescu, attended the SELDI round table, hosted by MEP Monica Macovei, which took place at the European Parliament on 30 November 2016.

In its 2015 and 2016 Enlargement Packages, the European Commission has announced that there will not be further enlargement by the end of the current Commission’s term – October 2019. While, the EU and key member-states have expressed their continuing commitment to the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, citizens and stakeholders have seen the enlargement “freeze” as a drag on motivation and drive for further reforms. The Great Recession, the annexation of Crimea and the geopolitical rift between the EU and Russia, the migration crisis, and the attempted military coup in Turkey, and the Brexit vote have all pushed back the prospect of Enlargement. This chain of negative events has exacerbated an already complicated task for local civil society and reformers in cooperation with the EC to enhance anticorruption efforts, confront state capture, and open prosperity prospects for the region.

All countries in the region have systemic problem with corruption, and even high levels of prosecution and investigation cannot tackle it in the next 5-10 years, according to Ruslan Stefanov, SELDI Coordinator, Center for the Study of Democracy, Bulgaria. Mr. Stefanov presented the key findings from Shadow Power, SELDI’s Regional Anticorruption Report 2016. Anticorruption progress has slowed down in the past two years, with citizens feeling trapped in what they increasingly see as their captured states by powerful political – economic networks. On average a quarter of the citizens in the region have been forced to engage in corruption, exposing a systemic governance problem in SEE. This has slowed growth, sustained poverty and fueled inequality. Between a third and four-fifths of the citizens in the region have chosen to stay in the hidden economy damaging long-term growth prospects.

SELDI members from six countries shared the challenges that they face. All of them stressed on the key role of the CSOs in keeping political elite accountable.

Sabine Zwaenepoel, Coordinator of the Centre of Expertise on Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights, DG NEAR, European Commission closed the event by summarizing the conclusions from the 2016 Enlargement Package. She expressed her disappointment at the limited results achieved by the countries after the huge amount of funding provided by EC. According to her, countries should be able to investigate and prosecute corruption. Most countries have good legislation in political party financing, whistleblowing, conflicts of interest, special prosecution offices, but results are low. For that reason the EC is working to develop a more strategic approach to countering state capture and money laundering, supporting policy and administrative reforms, ensuring appropriate control over the work of the agencies and transparent elections, improving managerial accountability and public procurement systems.

More information on the agenda and speakers can be found here

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