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Ending impunity for grand corruption in the Western Balkans and Turkey

This project is a continuation of work

This project is a continuation of work from the Turkey and Western Balkans: National Integrity Systems project which was completed in 2027.

Since the early 1990s, with the prospect of joining the European Union, countries in the Western Balkans and Turkey have taken steps to develop and strengthen their anti-corruption systems. Progress has been slow, however, and the implementation of laws and policies lags far behind political commitments.

One of the main obstacles to membership of the EU is weak rule of law, often the result of highly corrupt government and capture of public decision-making by private interests – powerful individuals, groups and organisations undemocratically shaping a nation’s policies, legal institutions and economies to illicitly enrich themselves.

While EU membership may be an incentive, weak rule of law, state capture and impunity for corruption is undermining social and economic progress. This needs urgent and systemic action. Clean governments embodying democratic values and good governance will not only strengthen these countries in the European landscape, but will enable development for the common good.

Ending impunity for grand corruption in the Western Balkans and Turkey is an EU funded project to stop corruption and state capture in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. The project seeks to improve governance, transparency and accountability of the judiciary and democratic law-making.

To do so, we are highlighting shortcomings of the criminal justice system when handling corruption cases, and exposing tailor-made laws created to protect the private interests of a few. Our analysis ensures a better understanding of corruption and state capture, and their effects on societies.

Research is combined with communications and evidence-based advocacy to secure lasting, systemic change.

What's at stake?

The rule of law is a fundamental aspect of good governance. With laws that serve public interests and an independent judicial system, those responsible for a crime can be held to account.

In the Western Balkans and Turkey, key laws and the institutions meant to uphold them are weak or even support corruption and state-capture. Weaknesses in prosecuting corruption help it to grow, and undue influence in law-making can make corruption and capture legal.

Laws give privileged contracts, reduce penalties and privatise public goods for the benefit of the few.

Corruption cases are often not prosecuted. The ones that are often stall before verdicts are reached or conclude with light sentences.

These issues are having a severe impact on the Western Balkans and Turkey. The Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International’s ranking of public sector corruption, identifies serious corruption problems in the public sectors of all seven countries. This slows development and hinders democracy, depriving tens of millions of people of opportunities and an improved standard of living. Corruption has also had a harmful effect on the environment, urban spaces, business sectors and other aspects of daily life.

This will continue until the rule of law is strengthened, political decision-making is free of undue influence from special interests, and citizens in the Western Balkans and Turkey no longer have their lives dictated by a corrupt elite.

What we're doing about it

Through research, communications and advocacy we push for change in each country. We are creating two databases: one with details of corruption cases in the region, specifically grand corruption cases or ones that might represent an entry point to state capture. These cases illustrate the red flags and shortcomings in the judicial systems of those countries when addressing corruption.

The second database includes tailor-made laws, laws that serve to gain and maintain privileged benefits and in doing so make state capture legal. It reveals how law-making is used to protect private interests, and illustrates areas where politicians lacking integrity can be held to account.

The databases are not meant to be fully comprehensive and do not include all the corruption cases and tailor-made laws in each country. They use a qualitative approach to both the cases and the laws, as tools to understand how the judicial system operates and how law-making is influenced.

National and regional reports will highlight research findings, analysis and recommendations.

These activities support advocacy with key decision-makers at national and regional levels.

This project builds on our previous work in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Researching cases of state capture in specific sectors of each country has allowed us to better understand where capture takes place and its characteristics.

Analysing how each country’s judiciary addresses corruption cases that can be an entry point to capture, and how undue influence in law-making results in tailor-made laws, is allowing us to answer the question of what makes that state capture possible.

To build on our research, we are developing recommendations for anti-corruption reforms, improvement of democratic law-making and strengthening of mechanisms to build transparency, integrity and accountability of the judiciary.

We will increase awareness of corruption, lack of judicial independence, state capture, the phenomenon of tailor-made laws and media freedom in the Western Balkans and Turkey among the public, partners, journalists, academics and decision-makers. Through coordinated outreach and messaging, we will bring global, regional and national attention to these issues.

We hope that with more information, citizens will be able to create change – demanding integrity from their governments and independence for judiciaries, and voting corrupt leaders out of office.

Civil society partners and journalists are encouraged to use the research and communications resources to support their own activities and collaborate with us to build a strong, united anti-corruption movement for systemic change.

Funding

The project is funded by the European Commission.