Balkans: April 26, 2002


: Credit IWPR for once again nailing one of the most crucial issues linking all Balkan troubles: organized crime. The storys title tells it all: MAFIA FUELS BALKANS TURMOIL. The subtitle is even more explicit: Organized crime at every level of Balkan society prevents true entrepreneurship and the emergence of civil society. StrategyPage has commented frequently on the embedded nature of Balkan crime and corruption. IWPR argues (correctly) that crime impedes all efforts at nation building in the region. The article quoted one American expert as saying nation building and efforts to build a civil society only work if you have rule of law, trust of the government, an independent judiciary and uncorrupt officials." You cannot create a democratic rule of law and inspire trust overnight. Where the mob rules (mob as in Mafia) fear of retribution overrides any sense of developing trust in government institutions. The sad situation with pervasive, institutionalized corruption is, quoting from the IWPR analysis, many layers of society are implicated and benefit from it." Yes indeed. When privatization does occur, the criminals (who have cash) have an advantage over honest investors (witness what happened in Russia). IWPR notes another phenomenon weve mentioned before: ethnicity and nationalism get trumped by crime. The irony is rich. Serbs, Croats, and Albanians can cooperate in criminal activity. Heres one more good quote from the article: "The illicit follows the licit (in these embedded criminal situations), you cannot decouple organized crime from legitimate activity. They are deeply interconnected. The problem is how do you provide growth in the legitimate sector (of a Balkan nation) when you cut off the illegitimate sector where there is so much profit to be made. If alternatives to crime are not provided there will be no local support." Would-be nation builders have their work cut out for them. How do you create Eliot Ness (the Untouchables, who battled the Capone mob in Chicago) in a corner of the globe that has never really had the rule of law, only the rule of the autocrat? In Kosovo the UN imported police (UNMIK), but that kind of effort only goes so far. The Balkans need honest local cops. At the moment the mobsters completely outgun the cops. (Austin Bay)




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