Balkans: February 7, 2002


Economic and political corruption in the Balkans is rampant. For the past several months a number of Balkan nations have made political noises about (and occasionally, judicial moves toward) addressing endemic corruption. On February 6 Bulgaria made a big pitch to foreign investors that corruption is decreasing in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian statement said that Transparency International had moved Bulgaria up from 66th place on its anti-corruption list, to 47th. According to an AFP report on the meeting (which was attended by over 80 countries as well as several major development banks), Bulgaria intends to modernize its civil service and strengthen fiscal controls (ie, banking and accounting regulations) in order to fight corruption. Also on February 6, Greece announced a political crackdown on public sector corruption. AFP reported the Greek government said a poll conducted in January 2001 said that 92.5 percent of the Greek population believed corruption reigned supreme in the public sector, particularly in hospitals, tax offices and the public building authority. The public is getting sick of greasing palms. The most extensive anti-corruption report was run by IWPR on Serbias new anti-corruption campaign. The Serbs call it name and shame. The public can call a phone hotline to report corrupt officials. The article did point out that the police are corrupt, so the issue of how long the new policy will be enforced remains to be seen. However, nine officials have been arrested since the campaign began. (However, none were big shot officials or police all are low-level bureaucrats.) Heres a quote from the IWPR analysis. Fraud in Serbia is so endemic that even a doctor's appointment or hospital treatment usually involves bribery. X-rays, surgery and even medical assistance during childbirth can carry "fees" of several hundred German marks... The police, teachers, customs officers and the judiciary are also mired in corruption and almost any business activity or public service requires personal connections and bribes. Now for Romania RFE ran a report (February 5) that said Four out
of five Romanians believe that corruption is stronger than the letter of the law in their country. About half of the Romanian public believes that the new Romanian anti-corruption campaign will fail. (Austin Bay)


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