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.

Background paper on Poland

There are many grounds for believing that Poland is close to the threshold of good governance. Accession to the European Union required many changes to be made to the organization of the state and this provided an important drive for modernization. After EU accession, modernization processes clearly lost impetus, for political elites seemed to lack incentives to engage in broader reforms that could significantly improve quality of governance. Local government is over-politicized and the citizenry shows considerable passivity and tolerance towards corruption. While the model of governance in Poland has become more rationalistic and universalistic during transition, recent slowdown of reforms should be a matter of public concern.

Batory Foundation releases poll on whistle-blowing

The results of a new opinion poll carried out by the Batory Foundation in Poland evaluated Poles’ opinion on whistle-blowing at work. The opinion poll was carried out on 11-18 April 2012 by the Polish Public Opinion Poll Centre (CBOS). The report, entitled “Heroes or Snitches”, revealed that almost 70% of those surveyed would be prepared to assume the role of the whistle-blower. Nevertheless, the report highlights the factors that still discourage Poles from reporting irregularities in the workplace.

According to the data, 68.9% of respondents said they would report irregularities to the management of their firm and 64.5% to the relevant authorities. Yet, they would prefer to do so anonymously rather than revealing their identity. There is, however, a share of 24-26 % of Poles who would not report problems either to their employer or to the relevant authorities.

The report pointed out two main causes for people’s reluctance to report irregularities in the workplace. The first lays in the lack of adequate legal protection for whistle-blowers, a problem mentioned by nearly two thirds of respondents. The second is the “fear of being ostracised in the workplace”. Many respondents would expect a negative reaction on the part of the employer, such as dismissal, harassment, or disciplinary action towards the whistle-blower. Moreover, there is also a social stigma associated to whistle-blowing in Poland. Thus, people expect that the majority of their work colleagues would not approve of such action. This is related to the finding that more than 30% of respondents consider loyalty towards work colleagues to be more important than loyalty towards the employer.

The study showed that the social acceptance of whistle-blowing is also dependent on the nature of the irregularity which is reported. The greatest acceptance is found in cases of corruption or those “generally recognised danger to people: physical danger (non-compliance with safety procedures, driving a vehicle while intoxicated) or mobbing”. Conversely, reporting cases when one is acting for his/her own benefit, without posing a direct threat to other employees, is less likely to be supported by co-workers. Finally, the majority of Poles expressed their support for whistle-blowing by those working in professions which are likely to discover irregularities in the workplace (police, medical profession, public administration and educational system).

The picture featured above is from allgov.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).

 

TI Releases New Study on Corruption Risks in Eastern European Countries

A new report released by Transparency International (TI) examines the main corruption risks in four Eastern European countries, namely Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. According to the study, reforms to strengthen democratic institutions and the anti-corruption legal framework in these countries, undertaken largely as part of their accession process to the European Union, have not been successful in minimising corruption risks, and the danger of political influence over fundamental control institutions remains.

The report points out that some of the institutions resulting from those reforms have in fact been weakened or entirely abandoned by dominant political actors after the accession. According to Miklos Marschall, Deputy Managing Director at Transparency International, “the laws and institutions against corruption in the Visegrad region will remain empty shells without a meaningful commitment to transparency. Most important is that high level public servants and politicians declare their assets and interests, public institutions must be independent from influence and there needs to be better checks on party financing”.

TI’s new report, based on national surveys assessing the strength of the anti-corruption frameworks of these four countries, captures some important similarities and differences in the region. Among the common risks identified in the study are weaknesses in party financing regulation and vulnerabilities related to corruption in the business sector. Nevertheless, some of the positive aspects raised are related to the relative independence and leeway of civil society and media and the importance of investigative journalists and bloggers in exposing corruption in these countries.

For more detailed information on the report, please read the press release “Post-communist institutions failing to stop corruption in Visegrad countries” on transparency.org.

 

(Anti-)Corruption in Poland since early 2000 to 2010

This report suggests that although corruption is relatively spread-out in Poland, its level is slowly declining. Improved laws and regulations, which are an effect of government, civil society organizations and international community’s activities, as well as continuous monitoring of public life and officials carried out by state organs as well as civic watchdogs have heavily contributed to reshaping the anti-corruption environment in the country. Additionally, media support has drawn public attention to the issue and has helped to raise awareness about (anti) corruption and its effects. Nonetheless, there is still long way to go to uproot the described corruption-inviting behavior and catch up with leaders of the rankings on the least corrupted jurisdictions. The social change is slow to happen and requires continuous effort on part of both government and the NGO sector to ensure sustainability of this evolution.

(Anti-)Corruption in Poland since early 2000 to 2010

This report suggests that although corruption is relatively spread-out in Poland, its level is slowly declining. Improved laws and regulations, which are an effect of government, civil society organizations and international community’s activities, as well as continuous monitoring of public life and officials carried out by state organs as well as civic watchdogs have heavily contributed to reshaping the anti-corruption environment in the country. Additionally, media support has drawn public attention to the issue and has helped to raise awareness about (anti) corruption and its effects. Nonetheless, there is still long way to go to uproot the described corruption-inviting behavior and catch up with leaders of the rankings on the least corrupted jurisdictions. The social change is slow to happen and requires continuous effort on part of both government and the NGO sector to ensure sustainability of this evolution.

Transparent Poland II

This part of the project was designated for those local governments, which accomplished one of the two previous stages and intended to go on with already introduced solutions in order to deepen and fine tune their working. The main focus of the project was again to improve the quality of local governance. In general 127 local governments went on with this initiative and kept implementing brand new tasks (both mandatory and voluntary) within the earlier designed areas.

Local Civic Groups

From 2000 to 2005 the Batory Foundation carried out a program to develop a network of Local Civic Groups, which were to monitor the exercise of authority by local officials as well as to educate local communities on greater transparency of public life.

The Foundation organized on an annual basis a set of trainings and workshops (9 meetings each lasts 2 days and take place every 4-5 weeks). These leadership trainings intend to prepare local leaders to develop their leadership skills as well as to train them in hard skills, like knowledge of legal regulations and consequences of corruption.

Over the last four years, the programm trained 68 individuals who have established 20 local citizens groups in both small communities and in large urban centers such as Cracow and Warsaw.

The project also provided technical and financial assistance to the Local Civic Group Leaders Association.
A series of advice manuals, practical guides and brochures (e.g..  Notes on Democracy – Citizen’s Anti-Corruption Guide series and Notes for Local Civic Group leaders) have been also developed.

Transparent Poland – Forum

In 2007 47 local governments from the 3 previous project stages were invited to take further their experiences with “Transparent Poland”” (PP) program. This project lasted from March to November 2007. The invited communities were one of the most active and advanced bodies in introducing previous stages of the program. The PP-Forum offered an opportunity to bring together the governments and allow information sharing and exchange of interesting practices. Moreover, strengths and weaknesses of the hitherto approach were pinpointed. The main goal of this engagement supported by external experts was to work out an internal audit scheme for both effectiveness appraisal and evaluation of local governance enhancing mechanisms enacted during the previous stages of the program. Monitoring and assessment of the at-that-time utilized procedures was carried out and policy recommendations were spell out to fine tune the effectiveness of the local governments’ actions.
Another objective of this stage was to create a set of solutions and recommendations that could be later on shared with other self-governments, which did not participate in this project phase. The final goal was to establish a benchmarking group of advanced in implementation of the program activities local governments, which in further years could be utilized as a reference point for other self-governments, which would like to take on some of the program recommendations. This benchmarking group could also share their experiences with and offer advice to other local governments.
At this stage the program enlarged its geographical scope and pilot projects began in other countries of the region (Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia). The project continued in 2008.”

Monitoring of electoral campaign financing

2005-2006: Batory Foundation and the Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) initiated in 2005 a project named ‘Monitoring of electoral campaign financing’ and its name is self explanatory. During initial 2005-2006 period the project encompassed monitoring of both presidential and local government electoral campaigns.
2006-2008: Those observations pushed both organizations to take steps in order to amend the current inefficiencies. In 2008 they came up with proposals of amending the electoral law, especially in terms of presidential campaign financing and presented it before the parliamentary legislative committee.
Local government 2006: The monitoring of finances of local government electoral campaign was ignited in June 2006. The Batory Foundation trained 15 local NGOs and associations across Poland in the project area. These organizations were to impartially monitor and publish data about campaign financing sources, with a special stress put on the issue if the public money is used to finance incumbent majors/presidents’ campaigns. Additionally, resources utilized for media campaign, public events as well as donations were analyzed. This action was to show that the society not only care about electoral campaign finances, but also can control them.
2009: The third edition of this still ongoing project took place in 2009 during the electoral campaign to the European Parliament (EP). Again close attention was paid to campaign expenditures, financing sources and engagement of public funds by public officials for their or their colleagues campaigns. Monitoring was carried out at both national and local levels and observed irregularities were reported and disclosed in the intermediary report.

Monitoring of electoral campaign promises

This initiative (monitoring of electoral campaign promises) has been running since 2001 in order to present anti-corruption-oriented proposals of political parties in an unbiased and unpartisan fashion. For this purpose a single-issue coalition of Polish NGOs, called AKOP, was brought to life. AKOP or Antykorupcyjna Koalicja Organizacji Pozarzadowych (Anti-corruption Coalition of Non-governmental Organizations) composes of major domestic NGOs, i.e. Batory Foundation, The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, The Foundation for Social Communication, Center for Citizenship Education, The Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups. The latter two joined AKOP in 2005.
It began with monitoring of the parliamentary electoral campaign in 2001 in order to hold politicians accountable to their electoral promises pertaining to fight against corruption. Since then on before every parliamentary election (2005, 2007) AKOP has been asking political parties about their position on issues related to anti-corruption and substantial measures that a party would take during the new term. Then those promises have been published on the organization website and the coalition has been elaborating annual reports on fulfilling promised targets and actions.
Additionally to the electoral promises monitoring, AKOP also keep tracking the developments in the law-making arena. It submits its remarks on legislative projects that are important for the anti-corruption sphere. The coalition also issues statements on government’s (non-)implementation of anti-corruption strategies/plans. By and large, the AKOP is a watch dog of activities and declaration aimed against corruption that happens at the political level.

Transparent Poland – ‘Certification system for local government units’

This new pilot project within Transparent Poland framework was introduced in 2008. An appraisal of the district and municipality self-governments’ actions was carried out by external bodies. During this initiative 16 districts were examined and all but one were granted with a renewable certificate of ‘Przejrzysta Polska’ (the logo of the program is a blue diamond, which by now should be very well recognizable) for the period 2008-2010. Additionally, among 32 local governments from the PP-Forum phase a contest was organized for the friendliest Public Information Bulletin, which is an official web site that is required by the law, where all public information on a given community should be published.

 

 

Law-making process monitoring

This project, ‘Law-making process monitoring’, was initiated in 2006 by the Stefan Batory Foundation and Institute of Public Affairs (01.2006-12.2007). Thanks to the newly enacted in 2005 law on lobbing the NGOs and other organizations obtained an opportunity to monitor, follow more closely and also participate in legislative law-making processes. The engaged organizations monitored law projects with a significant impact on the anti-corruption sphere. The goal of this undertaking was twofold. On the one hand it intended to empirically appraise the possibility and effectiveness of the NGO participation in the legislative process. On the other hand, assessing the law making process transparency was envisaged.

Budget monitoring laboratory II

Continuation of the project ‘Budget monitoring laboratory’ implemented in the previous year. The overarching goals again were long-term and difficult to measure their outcome straight after the project. Projects objectives were:
• improving transparency of local government finances and enhancing citizens participation in budgetary process
• increasing the level of civic control over local authority activities
• enhancing information flow between citizens and local governments

Transparent District (pilot)

The project was a pilot for the larger project Transparent Poland (’Przejrzysta Polska’). The goal of this first stage was to elaborate, in cooperation with 16 local governments, a model of tasks, which these governments were to implement in order to attain project objectives. The model was later to be scaled up in the following stage, i.e. the massive action. The project set forth six rules, which should be present in the functioning of public offices and officials at the local level. Those were: transparency, citizens participation, no toleration for corruption, professionalism, predictability and accountability. Within the program the participating governments had to fulfill certain solutions/tasks which were related to each of these six rules, e.g. elaboration an ethical code of conduct for public officials and members of local councils, creating a road map of local initiatives, elaborating materials that in an accessible way explain the role and creation of budgets and community’s strategy etc.

Budget monitoring laboratory I

This project aimed at enhancing long-term transparency of public life in local districts and municipalities through improving citizens’ knowledge about and ability to monitor local budgets. Transparency was to be ensured by requiring local offices to provide information understandable to a regular citizen about each phase of the budgetary process (elaboration, implementation, evaluation). This in turn was to, in the long-term, encourage citizens to inform themselves about creation of the future budgets and participate in decision making pertaining to budgetary decisions (application of social consultations, which would be mandatory for the localities). The project also emphasized utilization of good practices like elaboration and making use of multi-annual budgetary frameworks, which would inform a current year budget planning, or having experts to revise budget projects.

Transparent Poland I – Massive Action

The project ‘Przejrzysta Polska’ (PP) is the largest program of this kind in Poland. It is state-wide and has been running since 2003 until today (although initially planned to last only 2 years). It has been organized by a coalition of widely recognizable polish NGOs, one of the biggest polish daily papers, international donors and recognizable individuals, e.g. the former ombudsman.

Moreover it had a large coverage in the media; some printed media as well as main channels of public TV and public radio took a patronage over the project. Thanks to its large scope and the backing from popular and widely known organizations and individuals, the project obtained a large support from local self-governments across the country.

The actors involved as well as project organizers have been changing over time, but the Foundation in Support of Local Democracy was always main part of it (here I would like to thank Ms. Katarzyna Żelichowska, for her invaluable support and patience to my questions regarding this program as well as other undertakings carried out by the Foundation).

The project’s goal was to improve quality of public life and local governance as well as to invigorate civil society. The PP aimed at those districts (local-governments), which were willing to cooperate with NGOs and citizens to improve local governance and wipe out from public life corruption and other pathologies. It also envisaged activating not only public official, but also local NGOs and citizens. Realization of scheduled tasks was to on the one hand enhance local governments’ resistance to corruption and unethical behavior, and on the other hand to ease access to public information to regular citizens as well as to make it easier for citizens to get their things accomplished in local offices.

The project set forth six rules, which should be present in the functioning of public offices and officials at the local level. Those were: transparency, citizens participation, no toleration for corruption, professionalism, predictability and accountability. Within the program the participating governments had to fulfill certain solutions/tasks which were related to each of these six rules, e.g. elaboration an ethical code of conduct for public officials and members of local councils, creating a road map of local initiatives, elaborating materials that in an accessible way explain the role and creation of budgets and community’s strategy etc.

On the basis of a model elaborated during the first stage of the project (Transparent District), this massive action took place. During the second stage (Transparent Poland – Massive Action) invitations were sent out to all local governments in Poland, of which 800 took part in the undertaking in 2005. Over 400 finished it and they were granted with certificates of the project. All the local governments were to attain objectives in each of the six program areas in order to accomplish the project. They had 12 months to do so.

The non-governmental center for public information access

This is a project with a large territorial scope, encompassing some 400 districts and municipalities. The main goal is to raise the awareness about exercising one’s right to public information. The project intended to show citizens how they can demand such data from uncooperative public offices. Within the framework of the undertaking not only individuals were instructed but also civil society organizations were trained in order to be able later to provide support to citizens. The project also intended to both gather information about cases of information refusals and systematize those instances to be able to draw more general conclusions on the matter. Finally, the public opinion was to be informed about the observance of regulation on the public information access.