Political influence over independent institutions is a systemic corruption risk in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia according to a new study released today by Transparency International.
The report highlights that democratic institutions and adequate legal frameworks adopted by the Visegrad countries during their accession process to the EU do not automatically provide sufficient protection against corruption risks. In many cases, these institutions have been weakened or entirely abandoned by dominant political actors after the accession.
“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”, said Miklos Marschall, Deputy Managing Director at Transparency International.
Transparency International’s new report, which is based on national surveys assessing the strength of the anti-corruption frameworks of the Visegrad countries, captures some important similarities and differences in the region. Key findings of the report include:
Party financing is a common problem
Party ﬁnancing is a key area in the Visegrad region where not only are practices unlawful but the legal framework is also weak. Political parties often abandon attempts to create transparent party and campaign financing systems with adequate controlling, monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms. Dominant political parties typically spend much more money to ﬁnance their operations and campaigns than the amount that is legally allowed.
Media and Civil Society: Key actors in fighting corruption
Political and economic interest groups in the Visegrad region are capable of inﬂuencing and manipulating state organisations, however they are much less adept at controlling actors outside the state’s authority, especially media and civil society.
When a predominantly corrupt system cannot self-correct, external actors will have key roles. In all Visegrad countries investigative journalists, websites and blogs exposed corrupt practices that could not be hidden anymore by corrupt cliques. Therefore the independence of these institutions is crucial in the ﬁght against corruption in the post-Communist Visegrad region.
Business sector faces alarming corruption risks in Hungary and Poland
Business related corruption risks are especially high in Hungary and Poland but they show different patterns. While in Hungary economic actors can capture the state, in Poland “state captures the business”. Powerful Hungarian interest groups are able to extract public money from the system through intentionally designed and professionally managed corrupt networks. In Poland top level public ofﬁcials extort bribes from prosperous businesses.
Prosecution is a risk factor in the Czech Republic and Slovakia
Prosecution proved to be especially weak in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The prosecuting bodies are vulnerable to direct political inﬂuence because of their strictly hierarchical and non-transparent organisational structures, and the lack of reforms since the fall of communism.