The latest report by the European Commission finds corruption to be a persistent problem for the accession countries of Central and Eastern Europe
Corruption issues play a major role in the European Union's latest Strategy Paper 2001, "Making a Success of Enlargement", a report that incorporates the input of the national chapters of Transparency International, the world's leading non-governmental organisation engaged in the fight against corruption.
This annual report on the progress made by the 13 EU candidate countries bidding to join the European Union records significant progress by all countries (except Turkey) towards implementing the acquis communautaire. However, the report stresses the necessity to strengthen mechanisms that root out corruption and calls on the candidate countries to accelerate the reform of the judiciary. Since the candidate countries feature substantially higher perceived levels of corruption than in the current 15 EU member-states (with the exception of Italy and Greece), the expansion anticipated in 2004/5 will push the issue of fighting corruption closer to the heart of the EU's agenda.
According to the paper released on 13 November 2001, "corruption, fraud and economic crime remain widespread in many candidate countries, where they contribute to a lack of confidence by the citizens and discredit reforms. Continued, vigorous measures are required to tackle this problem."
In most of the country reports, corruption is named as a specific problem hampering progress towards accession. In Estonia, for instance, corruption remains a relatively limited problem. The legislative framework has been strengthened by the new Penal Code adopted in June 2001. However, the capacity to enforce compliance with anti-corruption legislation needs to be strengthened. In the Czech Republic, while progress has been made toward reforming the judiciary, certain key parts of the reform have not yet been adopted. In Latvia, the perception of corruption remains high, and corruption poses a serious obstacle to the proper and efficient functioning of the public administration. In Lithuania, administrative corruption remains an area of concern but considerable results have been seen in fighting corruption in budgetary, municipal, credit and financial institutions. In Poland, some progress has been made in adopting legislative measures to combat corruption but a sustained effort is required on the ground, to step up the fight against corruption both by the police and the border guard service.
Since May 2001, Transparency International and the European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement, have worked together on the problem of corruption. Nine national chapters of Transparency International contributed country assessments of progress made in the fight against corruption towards the compilation of the report on EU candidate countries.
The ten candidates for EU membership that seem to be the most advanced towards accession are the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia, while Bulgaria and Romania are not considered candidates for early membership. A glimpse of the future EU can be seen from the placings of the EU members and candidate countries (except Cyprus and Malta) in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2001, published in June this year by Transparency International. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2001 included 91 countries, and the EU members and candidates are shown in the table below:
EU member countries
EU candidate countries (excluding Cyprus and Malta) expected to conclude entry negotiations by the end of next year
Slow-track candidate countries
(Note: Due to a lack of data Cyprus and Malta were not included in the 2001 CPI.)
The latest EU report is available at: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/report2001/index.htm#success.
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