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The fight against corruption in the East: the least of European concerns?

(Archives B2) In the new member states, corruption corrupts all day-to-day relationships at the top of the state.

A daily practice

In Eastern Europe, corruption comes more from the art of living than from a reprehensible practice. From the doctor who practices “privately” to the driving license inspector who issues the pass for a few hundred euro notes, including building permits and traffic fines, “skip the line” is currency common in Eastern European countries. A practice which dates back well before enlargement, to the era of communism and which has not really regressed. The low level of the average salary of a police officer, a judge, a doctor – between 300 and 500 euros – is not for nothing in this state of mind.

An example from above

Former agents of the secret services and other political police have easily converted to these activities. Masters in the art of putting together a more or less bogus file, mixing real and false invoices, with the help of crooked notaries and lawyers, to obtain in record time all the necessary documents, they are on the lookout, with professionalism , European subsidies. Politicians are not left out.

The President of the Lithuanian Republic, Rolandas Paksas, was dismissed at the beginning of April by his Parliament for violation of the Constitution; During his electoral campaign, he would have benefited from “logistical” support, notably in the form of a plane loan from the company Avia Baltika, owned by the Russian Youri Borisov. And, in Poland, the former Prime Minister, Leszek Miller, is embroiled in a troubled story. The director of the popular Polish daily, Gazeta Wyborcza, former dissident Adam Michnik, says he was approached by film producer Lew Rywin, co-producer of Schindler's List and president of Canal Plus Polska's parent company, asking him, on behalf of the Prime Minister, for a pot wine of 17,5 million dollars, to change the law and allow the written press group to acquire private television.

Vulnerable countries

According to a survey of businessmen by Transparency International, the non-governmental organization fighting corruption, only three countries (Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia) display a sufficient level of fight against corruption; four others (Poland, Latvia, Slovakia, Poland) are at the level of Colombia or Jamaica.

An open mafia

In Lithuania, the Russian mafia does not really hide. Just observe! His black Mercedes or BMWs parade through the towns and his henchmen in silk suits parade. Vilnius, the capital, is in fact located only a few km from the Russian border. And the enclave of Kalilingrad, the Russian port located some 150 km on the other side, whets everyone's desire.

A taboo word

Faced with mafias of all kinds, and state apparatuses that are still weak, the European Union still seems poorly armed. Community legislation is scant. A short framework decision and a vague communication, dating from 2003, in short. Certainly, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), set up four years ago, is slowly gaining momentum. But this can only intervene if community resources (subsidies, VAT, etc.) are at stake. As for Europol and Eurojust, the two cooperation instruments set up by the States, one police, the other judicial , are still in their infancy. The urgency of the fight against terrorism seems to have relegated the fight against corruption, more obscure, to the rank of the least of European concerns.

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde (in Brussels)
article published in Ouest-France, May 2004

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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