Transparency International official Cornelia Abel named Serbia as an example of a "captured political system", citing the excessive influence of its President, Aleksandar Vucic. "Serbia … is becoming a prime example of one person in the position of power influencing everyone else," she said. Serbia fell by five places on the Corruption Perception Index, from 72 in 2016 to 77 in 2017.
The Business Anti-Corruption Portal, supported by the European Union, states that "Corruption is a problem in Serbia, and the prevalence of bribery exceeds the regional average. Foreign companies should be aware of conflicts of interest within Serbia's state institutions. Government procurement, natural resource extraction, and the judiciary are especially vulnerable to fraud and embezzlement."
Montenegro also has made little to no progress in its fight against corruption, and it remains at 64th place. Transparency International experts said that the 2016 alleged coup attempt only "stopped anti-corruption efforts to some extent". Montenegro is often criticized for not doing enough to tackle organized crime and corruption, with Brussels demanding concrete results in fighting corruption at the high political level as one of the main conditions for the country to join the EU.
The endemic political corruption of the Balkan states is certainly one of the main obstacles which is dramatically slowing the process of integration into the EU. Given, however, that the Balkan states are eager to join the EU, and since the EU is interested in luring them to its orbit and distancing them from Turkey and Russia, both sides need to take specific measures to address the problem of corruption.
The EU is in a strong position to use its leverage by offering investments, loans, and access to the European market, against which neither Russia nor Turkey can compete effectivel y -nonetheless, they are stopping short of nothing to incorporate them into their sphere of influence. In return, the Balkans should be required to institute political, economic, and social reforms.
The EU should also insist on greater transparency and accountability, which would curtail pervasive corruption by elected officials. To that end, the EU should resume a law enforcement and justice presence not only in Kosovo (which recently ended after ten years), but in all the Balkan states who wish to become EU members.
Civil societies throughout the Balkans have a major role to play by protesting and holding massive rallies and demanding an end to the corruption that has infected all government strata, including the judiciary and law enforcement. Should their respective governments fail to take clear and decisive steps to deal with corruption, the public may have to resort to civil disobedience, which could include labor strikes, student walkouts, and a slowdown by government employees.
Addressing the problem of corruption in the Balkans is central to the EU's geostrategic interests as well as the Balkans' future wellbeing within the EU community. The Balkans' accession to the EU must be seen as a marriage of necessity that will dramatically enhance their collective security while substantially improving the quality of life and respect for human rights throughout the Balkans.
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