Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fight against corruption and organized crime

At the opening the ministerial conference “Promoting Justice and Safety in South-eastern Europe”, which took place in Belgrade on March 15th 2009, the Prime Minister Mr. Mirko Cvetkovic said that corruption and organized crime are a serious threat to democracy, human rights, stability and economic progress of Serbia.
In recent years Serbia has made further commitments in fight against organized crime and corruption. In close cooperation with OSCE the Serbian government has dedicated itself to strengthen its legislative framework and the capacity of judges and prosecutors. This is very important in order to fight organized crime and corruption effectively. In addition, close relations have been developed between prosecutors in Serbia and Italy’s anti-mafia Directorate.
The level of corruption is measured by the Corruption Perception of Transparency International, an international NGO that fights corruption globally. In 2007 Serbia scored a 3,4 (on a scale from 1-10, with 1 means highly corrupt) on this index. This is not a great score, however, compared to the region and the past scores this is not bad. To give an indication: Bulgaria and Croatia score better (4,1 both), whilst Albania scores 2,9 and Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia 3,3. According to Transparency International, Serbia is making progress in fighting corruption: in 2002 the country scored only 2,3 and was therefore the most corrupt country in the Balkan region. In 2007, Serbia has improved its position, both in absolute score as in the relative position compared to the other countries in the region.
Corruption is one of the most important problems facing Serbia today. While there are some indications that corruption may have become less rampant in recent years, available evidence suggests that corruption levels are still high, while trust in key institutions is low. The impact on citizens is significant: day-to-day corruption can put a substantial strain on the poorest and most marginalized groups, while frequent scandals involving corruption among the highest public officials, undermines people’s confidence in the future, particularly among young adults. Serbia is a country in transition. It is important to tackle corruption systematically to avoid its becoming institutionalized. However, while good news and perceptions are thin on the ground, we find that the country is on a positive track in several areas: there are signs of greater control of public procurement, conflict of interest has begun to be regulated, access to information and transparency of the government institutions have improved significantly, and the capacity of enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute organized crime and corruption is increasing. The burden of rules and procedures has eased for private business, cutting opportunities for corruption. However, the political nature of the problem is constant, and more ambitious reforms are often effectively blocked by entrenched elites. A lasting impact on corruption levels cannot be achieved without sustained political will at the highest levels of government. On October 23 2008 the Serbian parliament adopted the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency, whose implementation will begin on January 1, 2010. The Agency’s key tasks will be conflicts of interest, control over the finances of political parties and international cooperation in the fight against corruption.
On April 15th 2009 the Anti Corruption Agency held its constitutive session to appoint its Board, formed in line with the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency. Serbian parliament speaker Mrs. Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic addressed the Board and recalled that the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency was adopted in October, adding that the agency will not only strive to implement laws but the Anti-Corruption Strategy as well. “Unfortunately, we have to admit that there is corruption in many segments of society, and the fact is that there can be no democracy, human rights, stability and economic development without a resolute fight against corruption”, said Dejanovic.
She said that the Agency, as an independent body, will considerably help institutions to function properly and in line with their authorizations.
On behalf of the government, State Secretary of Justice Mr. Slobodan Homen greeted the Board members and wished them success, adding that the Agency will not have mercy for anyone when it comes to corruption. Mr. Homen said that regulation of the finances of political parties will be among the Agency’s key priorities.
Board member Zoran Stojiljkovic told the press that this body will establish how certain property deals were financed, examine conflicts of interest and most importantly the corrupt financing within the political system. It will be allowed to sanction party budgets and the legitimacy of their financing, said Stojiljkovic adding that the Agency has the right to publicly announce the names of individuals or parties who break “the rules of the game”. Mr. Stojiljkovic recalled that the Agency will begin fully authorized work on January 1, 2010. The period up until then will be used to constitute all organs and establish agendas.According to law, the Board will have nine members.

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