Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Plague of Eastern Europe

As I wrote about last Wednesday and my colleague Zach wrote about yesterday, the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues to occupy international media, especially with the threat of a ground attack coming from Israel in upcoming days. With any luck, the proposed cease-fire aimed to go into place tonight will do just that, and Gaza and the West Bank can experience a calming peace tomorrow this time.

Despite the importance of this conflict, the rest of the world continues to be, more or less, business as usual. The glaring exception to this is former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, who will not be doing any more business (at least for the next ten years). Mr. Sanader was sentenced to ten years in prison today for taking bribes - estimated in the tens of millions of dollars - once in the 1990s and once in the late 2000s, both times from energy companies. Mr. Sanader's plight, unfortunately, is not uncommon: corruption amongst officials in government, in police forces and even the judicial systems has been one of the most significant problems Eastern European countries have had to face in recent years, usurping Communism's influence several decades ago.

Corruption is no secret when it comes to countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, and others. It is estimated that the vast majority of officials - judges, police officers, and government officials - in both countries have at the very least accepted small bribes or somehow illegally used their influence to sway policy and skirt national law. While some countries, such as the Ukraine, have stepped up immensely in combatting such corruption, others are overwhelmed. Corruption over the years becomes so deeply rooted within a country that it ends up being virtually impossible to weed it all out without destabilizing the country economically and politically.

Mr. Sanader at his sentencing.

Some argue that membership into the European Union is the best remedy for corruption, but even this has its drawbacks. For starters, the European Union doesn't want the problem of corruption to be added to the already myriad problems they are faced with today. But for those corrupt states that are already members, certain setbacks for anti-corruption come with membership: the European Union brings with it increasingly open borders which allow for less transparency, and the ability to do business off the books more easily within one's country as well as others. This can be enticing for those most corrupt, and the spillover corruption into other countries could very possibly devastate the European Union. At a time when their finances are already in such disarray, this is a very serious threat they will take into consideration when approving new members.

One of those new members is Croatia. Slated to join the European Union in July of next year, Mr. Sanader's sentencing will hopefully set an example for current and future leadership in not just Croatia, but in the rest of Eastern Europe. Corruption is without a doubt an insidious, debilitating plague that will need to be confronted head on within the next decade once the European Union has the time and the energy. Otherwise, they will be stuck with murky finances, useless judicial systems convicting the wrong people (or worse, no one at all), and governments that are difficult to work with - talk about a real nightmare.

No comments:

Post a Comment