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News 25 Jan 17

Watchdog Highlights Persistent Corruption in Balkans

Watchdog organisation Transparency International's latest annual report on perceived corruption around the world indicates that a high level of graft persists in Balkan states.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Map of Europe showing corruption from the lowest (yellow) to highest (dark red) level. Image: Transparency International

Transparency International on Wednesday published its annual global report on perceived corruption in society, indicating that governments in Balkan states have a lot of work to do to eradicate graft, with Macedonia singled out as one of the countries in which the situation has significantly worsened over the year.

The research for the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, ranks a total of 176 countries from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be the least corrupt), according to expert assessments and opinion surveys.

Of the Balkan states, Kosovo’s score is the worst at 36, closely followed by Macedonia with 37 and both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania at 39.

EU member Bulgaria scored 41 and Serbia 42.

The Balkan states with the lowest perceived level of corruption are Montenegro with 45 and two other EU member states, Romania with 48 and Croatia with 49.

Nevertheless, Kosovo and Albania improved the most from the previous year’s index, improving by three points each.

Romania and Serbia improved by two points each, while Bosnia and Montenegro improved by one point.

Bulgaria recorded the same number of points as last year, while Croatia’s score fell by two points.

Macedonia, whose rating fell by five points, is listed among the ten states which recorded the biggest annual fall in the Corruption Perceptions Index globally.

Globally, the states with the least perceived corruption are Denmark and New Zealand with 90 points, followed by Finland with 89.

Somalia with ten points, South Sudan with 11 and North Korea with 12 points are the states with the highest perceived level of corruption in the world.

The Transparency International report warned that globally, “systemic corruption and social inequality reinforce each other, leading to popular disenchantment with political establishments and providing a fertile ground for the rise of populist politicians”.

It said that there was “a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth”.

“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” Jose Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a statement.

The watchdog also warned that because people are “fed up” with politicians’ promises to tackle corruption, they turn to populist leaders who make the problem worse.

“In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary. Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems,” Ugaz said.

“Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully,” he added.

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