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Between anti-corruption reform and decline: Examining key actors, strengths and weaknesses in the Western Balkans and Türkiye’s national integrity systems

Despite a variety of political and public sector integrity reforms, partly intended to make progress towards EU integration, people still see corruption as one of the biggest problems in the Western Balkans and Türkiye. Corruption harms the region in various ways, such as distorting policymaking and accountability mechanisms, undermining democratic institutions, and decreasing public trust in government across the region.

The national integrity system (NIS) assessments carried out between September 2022 and December 2023 by Transparency International chapters and partners in the Western Balkans and Türkiye confirms the public’s concerns. The assessments reveal a complex mixture of slow and limited progress in strengthening integrity systems, along with democratic backsliding that strongly augments corruption levels. The findings presented in this report stem from a comprehensive analysis of the resources, independence, transparency, accountability and integrity of institutions and non-state actors that play key roles in the fight against corruption. The report identifies six critical areas warranting further anti-corruption efforts: separation of powers between the executive and legislative, the justice sector, political integrity, public sector integrity, oversight institutions, and civil society and the media, in their role as anti-corruption watchdogs.

Overall, the assessment has identified institutional strengthening efforts in Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia over the last three years. Conversely, it found signs of stagnation or even decline in the institutional strength of the other four countries. In Serbia, anti-corruption efforts are overshadowed by the ongoing process of weakening of democratic institutions and strengthening of the president’s influence. In Türkiye, anti-corruption efforts have retreated amid the consolidation of the country’s autocratic regime. Bosnia and Herzegovina shows some progress, but remains impaired by the complexities of its system of government and internal disputes, which block reforms and lead to misaligned rules between the state and the entity level (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska). Montenegro has been grappling with political instability, with three governments in three years, after breaking out from three decades of rule by the Democratic Party of Socialists in 2020. While the former ruling party may have lost institutional power, its networks still exert considerable informal influence across much of the public sector. This is instrumental in maintaining elements of state capture and accompanying impunity that have destabilised subsequent governments.

In the context of the regional project EU4 Rule of Law: Citizen Engagement for Public Integrity (CEPI) in the Western Balkans and Turkey, Transparency International national chapters and partner organisations have published their own National Integrity System (NIS) Assessment reports in English and local languages. These reports are available through the links below:

Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM Albania):

National Integrity System Assessment Albania 2023

Vlerësimi i Sistemit Kombëtar të Integritetit Shqipëri 2023

Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina:

National Integrity System Assessment Bosnia and Herzegovina 2023

Studija sistema nacionalnog integriteta Bosna i Hercegovina 2023

Transparency International Kosova / Kosova Democratic Institute:

National Integrity System Assessment Kosova

Vlerësimi i Sistemit të Integritetit Kombëtar Kosovë

Nacionalni integritet procena sistema Kosovo

Transparency International Macedonia:

National Integrity System Assessment North Macedonia 2023

Transparency Serbia:

National Integrity System Assessment Serbia 2023

Procena sistema društvenog integriteta Srbija 2023