The demand for good governance is on the rise everywhere, from Kiev to Sao Paulo, Paris to New Delhi. But has any measurable progress been made recently? Do we know which countries are succeeding and why? Do anticorruption experts and policy makers understand public concerns about corruption?
The Anticorruption Frontline, the second volume of the FP7 ANTICORRP project policy report launched last week at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, finds less than encouraging answers to these questions: Despite increased effort to fight corruption worldwide, there remains little progress on the ground. Even in countries which have shown improvement, the use of public office for private gain remains an issue. Public opinion surveys tracking concerns about corruption are frequently misunderstood – by those being surveyed as well as those proposing anticorruption policy solutions.
New research by Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi of the Hertie School of Governance shows that decreased confidence in the EU, especially in Western and Southern Europe, is linked closely to citizens’ perceptions of their national government’s ability to control corruption. This confidence has been eroded in the wake of the euro crisis, most markedly in countries with the worst growth performance. Central and Eastern Europe, however, remains the last bastion of trust in EU institutions, which is perceived largely as a counterweight to untrustworthy national institutions.
Two European case studies from The Anticorruption Frontline illustrate that EU funding regulations and anti-corruption legislation alone are no panacea for the rampant favoritism inherent in extant particularistic systems. Despite an improved Bulgarian anticorruption rating according to most accepted measures, findings from the Center for the Study of Democracy on Bulgarian governance show that the avoidance of market competition in areas such as public procurement remains the rule rather than the exception. In another chapter, Mihaly Fazekas’ unique data mining method on the awarding of EU structural funding uncovers systemic corruption in Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian public contracting methods.
Such preferential treatment – and its inherent abuse of power – is one of the most insidious forms of corruption facing the world today. Further case studies from The Anticorruption Frontline include deeper analysis of Qatar and Rwanda, two countries singled out for their improvements on anticorruption measures, yet both of which still exhibit favoritism in public procurement, as well as a look into the corrupt bed of Ukraine‘s gas market, exposed in the wake of 2014’s uprising. As every case in the book makes clear, traditional measures of corruption often fail to measure the existence and subsequent impact of such exploitation of public trust for private gain.
The Anticorruption Frontline argues that further EU regulation is not the solution. As a multidimensional phenomenon, fighting corruption requires tailored policy approaches as well as sustained support in areas such as improving transparency and strengthening civil society. The answer instead may lie in a transition from EU co-financing of large public projects – where the risk of corruption is higher – to a more universal and non-discretionary allocation of EU funding, such as an Europe-wide unemployment benefit scheme.
The Anticorruption Frontline is available for purchase via Barbara Budrich Publishers.