ERCAS Congratulates Martin Mendelski

ERCAS congratulates Dr. Martin Mendelski, a member of the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project and affiliate of ERCAS partner Romanian Academic Society (SAR): He was awarded the “THESEUS Award for Promising Research on European Integration” for his PhD thesis entitled “The Limits of the European Union’s Transformative Power: Pathologies of Europeanization and Rule of Law Reform in Central and Eastern Europe”.

Mendelski’s doctoral thesis argues that the EU’s impact on the rule of law depends on the social order in which countries (from Central and Eastern Europe) are located. The findings of the study show that EU-driven reforms tend to undermine the rule of law in closed-access and transitional social orders (e.g. Moldova, Romania, Western Balkans), by reinforcing legal pathologies (e.g. legal instability and incoherence, politicization). These detrimental effects of Europeanization tend to occur when empowered and unchecked reformers instrumentalize judicial and anti-corruption reforms (including newly created anti-corruption agencies, judicial structures and laws). In contrast, the “pathological power” of the EU is less harmful in open-access social orders (e.g. Poland, Estonia) where it is constrained by reform-resisting and independent horizontal accountability institutions (e.g. Constitutional Courts, Ombudsmen, judicial councils). To explain differences in the rule of law more systematically, an original causal theory of “virtuous and vicious reform cycles” is proposed. The main implication is that EU conditionality is not transformative but reinforcing, i.e. reformers tend to reproduce the respective social order in which they are embedded and thus cement the post-communist divergence in the rule of law. The thesis further makes several policy recommendations to remedy the pathological impact of donor-driven reforms.  Two papers resulting from his research can be found on the ANTICORRP website.

The THESEUS award is awarded for excellent work by junior researchers in the field of European integration. The rewarded works have been PhD theses or publications in major journals, which analyse on-going challenges for the European Union and its member states with regard to the institutions, policies or policymaking processes of the European Union or from a comparative perspective across the member states of the European Union, recommending potential institutional or policy solutions.

The Splintering of Postcommunist Europe

There are two radically different versions of the postcommunist narrative. One tells the triumphal tale of the only world region in which the reforms recommended by the “Washington consensus” worked. The other and more realistic account speaks of a historic window of opportunity that lasted for only a quarter-century, during which efforts by the West and patriotic elites of Central and Eastern Europe managed to drag the region into Europe proper, leaving Europe and Russia pitted against each other along the old “civilizational” border between them. This essay argues that while Institutional choices matter in the postcommunist world, geopolitical and civilizational boundaries still set the horizons of political possibility.

“Clean Moldova” Replicates Initiative by Neighboring Alliance for Clean Romania

clean moldova - ParliamentFollowing in the footsteps of the Alliance for Clean Romania, members of Moldovan civil society joined forces in the fight against corruption by launching the “Clean Moldova” online platform. The website is a space for discussion and analysis regarding political corruption and conflicts of interest, directed at voters, journalists, politicians, and public authorities. The main goal of this project is to prevent the election of dishonorable or corrupt political candidates, by presenting and disseminating information regarding their integrity, obtained through monitoring activities. Representatives of the two anti-corruption platforms met in June 2013 in Bucharest within the framework of a best practice transfer programme financed by the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society in Romania.

The Romanian anti-corruption alliance has been consolidated into a permanent platform following the Coalition for a Clean Parliament. This initiative monitored integrity of candidates to the national and European Parliaments in the 2004, 2007 and 2008 elections. It was followed by the Coalition for a Clean Government (starting in 2005) and the Coalition for Clean Universities (2009, 2010). The Moldovan alliance, similarly, was created by seven non-governmental organisations in November 2008, following the popular Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament (CICP) project.

The new platform organises public events on the operation of control institutions and the effectiveness of public policies in promoting the integrity of public officials, and also seeks to support informational media campaigns on the integrity of public officials. It includes various resources as well, such as excerpts from national and European legislation and links to relevant media articles on the topics of integrity and anti-corruption. Moreover, the editorial team is conducting journalistic investigations with particular attention to cases related to the integrity of public officials reported by the media. Similarly to the Alliance for Clean Romania, Clean Moldova also presents cases of undeclared conflicts of interests of public officials. The Moldovan portal also published blacklists of corrupt politicians and brief updates about the legal proceedings initiated against the Civic Initiative for a Clean Parliament by political parties and politicians whose names were included in the lists of candidates who did not meet the integrity standards.

The composing seven entities are: Association for Participatory Democracy “ADEPT”, Association for Independent Press (API), Centre for the Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Promotion Centre, The Independent Journalism Center, Journalistic Investigations Center , and Soros Foundation Moldova, which also provides financial support.

There is a strong need for such a portal in Moldova, members say, as recent poll results revealed that every other citizen thinks most, if not all, politicians are corrupt and unworthy of being elected in the local or national government. This shows that there is a public that can greatly benefit for such an initiative with more information on integrity of politicians.

(The picture featured above is from obozrevatel.com.)

 

Batory Foundation Launches Website on Political Finance in 7 Countries

The Stefan Batory Foundation, in cooperation with other seven NGOs*, has launched the website www.politicalfinance.org, devoted to analysing the regulation systems of campaign and political party financing in 7 countries: Armenia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia and Poland.

The website is the result of a research project initiated in February 2012, whose goal was to examine political finance regulation in each country from the perspective of the mechanisms protecting policy-making against undue influence of interest groups. In addition to preparing the seven individual country reports, the project also conducted a comparative analysis of the different systems and highlighted advantages and disadvantages of each one, emphasising arrangements that can be seen as best practice.

The country reports are published on the website and cover the specific features of each regulatory system, including an assessment of the effectiveness of adopted solutions, case studies and policy recommendations. In addition to the country-specific recommendations, three common recommendations for the participating countries have been developed: (a) to increase availability of information on donors and original invoices and receipts on party expenditures; (b) to  strengthen the role of public institutions responsible for the oversight of party financing; and (c) to provide long-term financing of political parties from the public budget. The analysis and recommendations are published in English and Russian language versions.

A more detailed analysis of the country reports allows for a closer overview of how the regulatory systems differ from country to country and the particularly weaknesses that each country’s system presents.  The Armenia country report shows, for instance, how the lack of sanctions to false financial reports by political parties or illegal donations to election funds negatively affects the political finance environment in the country. In Estonia, the possibility of cash donations severely hinders transparency regarding the funds that political parties and campaigns receive. In Georgia, differently than in other of the selected countries, the country report emphasises issues related to the unequal application of electoral laws to different parties, which jeopardises the fairness of political competition and the electoral process. Apart from specific issues that each country faces, there are common obstacles to more integrity and equity in political finance in some of the countries, such as the need for restrictions on private or corporate donations, and for increased transparency and detail in the disclosure of donations and expenditures.

The participants to the project hope that the initiative will stimulate further discussion on the need for reforms in the political party financing sector and further advocacy efforts. In the long term, this initiative aims to determine positive changes in the financing of political parties and to contribute to improving transparency in this field as well as to prevent corruption.

 

*The other organisations contributing to this project are: Stefan Batory Foundation (Poland); Stanczyk Institute of Civic Thought Foundation (Poland); Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul” (Moldova); Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) (Georgia); Transparency International Anti-Corruption Centre (Armenia); Transparency International Czech Republic; Transparency International Estonia; and Open Society Forum (Mongolia).

 

Moldova’s “Twitter Revolution”

Few Europeans had heard of Moldova, a tiny state on the EU’s eastern flank, before seeing images of the strife that broke out there in early April 2009 after the Communist Party (PCRM) won reelection in a landslide. Except for their international context, the events in Moldova did not differ substantially from those that sparked the color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine, but this difference in context led to a different outcome. What was missing in Moldova? The short answer is a unified opposition that could put itself in the driver’s seat.