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.

Youth for Transparency

The main aim of the project was to develop attitudes and meet expectations of young citizens in building the transparency and accountability of the public life on the local level, through education and through encouraging community cooperation on local and international levels.

Objectives

  • To engage local authorities and schools in common building and realizing the local policy of public administration monitoring.
  • To present the social control mechanisms in the subject of transparency and ways of corruption prevention for the students.
  • To cooperate with local authorities and schools in developing the local system of getting and disseminating information on the public institution functioning.
  • To build the international experience exchange and means of dissemination social control mechanism through education forum.

 

Target groups and beneficiaries

  • Youth: the project’s direct addressees are young people aged 13-18 years (students of gymnasium schools) in Poland and Lithuania living in places covered by the Programme, those who will one day become full citizens taking part in their local community life, also as the potential clients of offices in their localities (3900 students).
  • Local authorities chosen for the project: direct beneficiaries are local governments invited to co-operation (10 in Poland and 3 in Lithuania) their representatives who, assisted by the planned activities, are expected to build a positive image of the office and to work to improve confidence in public institutions (13 local governments, 65 representatives).
  • Teachers from the schools that will take part in the project: the Programme’s intermediate beneficiaries are also school teachers involved in its implementation and all the residents of counties and municipalities covered by the Programme, who will become addressees of activities carried out by school students and local government staff members (260 teachers).
  • Local community: all inhabitants in those regions where the project will be conducted (3000 adult inhabitants).

 

Corruption? Common problem. Don’t complain – act.

One province-wide project aimed at the monitoring openness of all local governments within the Podlaskie province. The first stage was launched by PRYZMAT in July 2007 and lasted till June 2008, the continuation took place between and financed by the Stefan Batory Foundation. The main goal was to check local governments’ observance of law on the public information access and some anti-corruption regulations. Within this undertaking an analysis of court jurisdiction pertaining to exercising one’s right to public information was carried out as well as assessment of legal regulations in this matter. Additionally, a degree of compliance of local governments with the law on public information was monitored. Finally, informative action was carried out through posters, flyers and project website: www.jawnosc.pl. The project did not include outcome indicators.

Openness and competence I

One province-wide project aimed at the monitoring openness of all local governments within the Podlaskie province. The first stage was launched by PRYZMAT in July 2007 and lasted till June 2008, the continuation took place between and financed by the Stefan Batory Foundation. The main goal was to check local governments’ observance of law on the public information access and some anti-corruption regulations. Within this undertaking an analysis of court jurisdiction pertaining to exercising one’s right to public information was carried out as well as assessment of legal regulations in this matter. Additionally, a degree of compliance of local governments with the law on public information was monitored. Finally, informative action was carried out through posters, flyers and project website: www.jawnosc.pl. The project did not include outcome indicators.

Set in stone – honestly

In December 2008 Ruch Normalne Państwo and SAR and in cooperation with Forum Obywatelskiego Rozwoju, magazine ‘Murator’ and Cadera company released a report on corruption in construction sector in Poland. Information was gathered predominantly among the readers of the magazine, which is the most well known magazine in topic construction, via an on-line survey. The sample and outcomes bear a significant risk of being biased, nonetheless, the report is indicative about exemplary situations that a Pole encounter during an administrative process when she tries to acquire a construction/remodeling permission.

Openness and competence II

It is a Poland-wide project targeted at raising awareness about corruption and shaping anti-corruption behavior models. The project is on-going and runs since late 2003. Both youth (primary schools, high schools and universities) and teachers are targeted and the aim of the undertaking is to introduce to school curricula more information about corruption and ways to counteract this phenomenon. Additionally, teachers were to be trained on topic how to deliver information about anti-corruption in classes as well as an internet database of corruption related materials was to be created. Within the program local governments are engaged on some stages and in some initiatives, like on-site visits, conferences, workshops, etc.
The project is of the very large scope and thousands of teachers as well as youth was trained and took part in multiple workshops and trainings. Many various materials have been elaborated within the project, like informative brochures, manuals, code of conducts etc. Moreover, some stages were linked with other ongoing projects in Poland, e.g. in 2004 with the Transparent District and in 2005 with Transparent Poland.
Project’s donors have varied over years and the funding have originated from governmental sources (the US Embassy and Polish Ministry of Education and Sport and Civic Initiatives Fund) as well as EU means the European Commission, Transition Facility 2005 (managed by the Cooperation Fund Foundation), and other NGOs, e.g. the Stefan Batory Foundation.
Within this project a number of other anti-corruption-/transparency-oriented initiatives for youth have been taking place. Two most significant are:

Youth in transparent Poland (since 2006) – Młodzież w przejrzystej Polsce
@corruption e-platform (2008) – E-platforma @ntykorupcyjna

Both of them were of the national scope and engaged large number of participants. Youth and teachers often try to engage within the projects public officials from local administration but also particular working groups, like judges, doctors, policemen etc., which often bear a patch of being very prone to corruption. This was achieved thanks to study visits to interested institutions as well as conferences and workshops with representatives of those sectors. Moreover, the project ‘Youth in transparent Poland’ stepped outside Poland and it turned into joined projects with e.g. Lithuania, where schools and local administrations were encouraged to cooperate in the field of anti-corruption.

Corruption in environment protection

The project consisted of the cooperation of various ecological and environment protection NGOs aiming at researching and revealing of areas, which are most prone for corruptive activities within the environment protection area. The project membership was widely open and was not aimed at particular organizations. The leading organization, ‘Towarszystwo na rzecz Ziemi’ (Association for the Earth) sent out an invitation to both NGOs and governmental agencies informing them of the project. In result 7 partners contributes to the program (in total 8 organizations), most being NGOs and one a state agency, the Polish Chamber of Commerce.
The project gathered data about the aforementioned phenomena by application of different methods:
– monitoring of daily press and internet news portals to sift information about corruption in environmental
– 6 personal in depth interviews (companies from different sectors and various locations in Poland, although three located in Wrocław)
– ordering a public opinion poll on corruption in the environment protection area
– 302 phone interviews with companies around Poland
– Analysis of reports and accessible literature
Within the framework of the project different legal analyses were ordered related to environment protection issues.

Forum for ethical business promotion

The Foundation for Promotion of Entrepreneurship (Fundacja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości) had a general objective of raising the social awareness about corruption and its social and legal consequences and at the same time the project was to promote ethical behavior. Additionally, mapping out corruption risks in the Łódzkie province constituted another main goal.

Only fish don’t take bait?

The aim of the project was to encourage the development of the investigative journalism, the latter being one of the method of not only revealing corruptive situations in public life, but also exerting a social pressure on politicians and officials to counteract such phenomena. The program had seven editions, starting in 2000 and finishing in 2006. The journalist (press, radio, tv) submitted to the Foundation their materials pertaining to uncovering corruptive situations. In the first edition, 2000, there were almost 80 submissions whereas, in 2001-48, 2002-36, 2003-138, 2004-162, 2005-165, 2006-88 (the high number in the latter years are caused most probably by counting several materials on the same topic not as a one submission but as a single entry). The ‘applications’ were evaluated by a committee and the winners were selected and announced. The winning journalists were awarded with financial prizes, in 2000 the main prize was $5.000, in 2002 it was PLN 12.000 (ca. €3.000), in 2006 – PLN 7.000 (ca. €1.750). Usually there were 3-4 prizes per edition. The awarded reportages were both of the national and local scope.

Citizens and local government

This project (Citizens and local government) was realized by the Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FSLD). It was a country-wide project designed for small municipalities and districts below 50.000 citizens with an objective to create sustainable and transparent mechanism for cooperation between local administration and local civic organizations and citizens. Overall the FSLD funded 22 grants to local NGOs (total amount equaled PLN 805.400 or ca. EUR 200.000) for sake of creating and strengthening of the cooperation among the NGOs as well as between them and the local administration.
Those actions were envisaged to enhance common trust between the engaged entities, especially towards the local governments and to lower corruption thanks to increased transparency of the decision making processes. Also creation of local organization coalitions was encouraged in order to stimulate active citizens’ participation in public life and to shape sustainable communication schemes between the administration and local communities. Thanks to the latter, local officials could better address the needs of their communities.

Civic law-making process monitoring

This was a continuation of a former two-year long project, i.e. ‘Law-making process monitoring’. The second edition ran for 10 months (02.2008-10.2008). Thanks to the EU funding from Transition Facility 2005 framework the project could gather a number of NGO and professional lobbyists as well as media representatives and allow them checking the functioning of the 2005 law on lobbying. The project focused on the parliamentary stage of the law-making since it is more transparent than the in-government stage and easier to participate and influence. Two dimensions which were highlighted by this project were:
• protecting the law-making process from illegal pressures that obscurely attempt changing a text of a bill project
• ensuring wide and transparent participation in the legislative process, especially amending bills that are being elaborated by civil society organizations

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.