Nothing will change in the fight against corruption in Southeast European countries unless the arrests and indictments of corrupt officials are followed by trials, convictions and verdicts, analysts say.
By Svetla Dimitrova and Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times -- 03/10/12
Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Behgjet Pacolli is accused of fraud. [Reuters]
Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Behgjet Pacolli has been accused by the anti-corruption agency in Pristina of falsification and fraud, Kosovo daily Koha Ditore reported on Friday (September 28th).
His file, the paper said, has been handed over to EULEX. The mission confirmed that its prosecutor's office received a file from the anti-corruption agency, without confirming or denying that the documents are on the investigation against Pacolli.
In an unrelated development a day earlier, Ljubljana mayor and leader of the main opposition Positive Slovenia party, Zoran Jankovic, was briefly held for questioning over the alleged misappropriation of millions of euros during the construction of the Stozice sports complex in 2010.
Police raided the mayor's office and home, as well as more than 20 other homes, including that of his son, Jure Jankovic, who was also interrogated.
Pacolli, who is also a prominent businessman, and Jankovic, the former chief executive of Mercator -- Slovenia's largest retail company and one of the biggest in the region -- join a chorus of Balkan politicians and senior officials who have been accused of corruption.
The highest-ranking among them are two former prime ministers, Ivo Sanader of Croatia and Adrian Nastase of Romania. In early September, Croatia's anti-corruption police unit filed the fifth corruption-related indictment against the country's former head of government and former leader of the centre-right party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
Nastase, who tried to commit suicide in June when police arrived at his house to take him to prison to serve a two-year jail term, was acquitted in early September on other charges of bribery.
"Establishment of rule of law and order unites the goals of each society in the Balkans," Petrit Zogaj, executive director of the "Fol" (Speak up) Movement in Kosovo, told SETimes. "In this sense, the recent arrests of various public officials for corrupt practices in some countries in the region have given the message that there is no other alternative but to build a free, democratic and rule of law society."
Graft is viewed as less widespread in Slovenia, as compared to other former-communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe. The country was ranked 35th among 183 world nations with a score of 5.9 out of 10 in Transparency International's latest Corruption Perceptions Index.
However, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa is being tried on charges of corruption over a deal for the purchase of armoured vehicles from Finnish company Patria in 2006, in the midst of his first term as head of government.
Analysts agreed that corruption investigations and trials of high-level officials send the signal that nobody is above the law, but that they need to be followed by convictions.
"Unfortunately, we still cannot talk about any crackdown on corruption in the region," said Drago Kos, the former head of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption in Slovenia.
"Much more work will be needed … to convince people from the region that the law is being applied equally to all and that corrupt people will be sanctioned for their corruptive deeds," Kos told SETimes.
But, he said, there has been improvement. "What is happening today is much better than what was happening yesterday, when high-level officials and important businessmen were simply untouchable."
While the procedures launched against Jansa and Jankovic may boost public confidence that nobody is above the law, their effect on the overall fight against corruption remains to be seen, according to Matjaz Jager, the head of the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana.
"In my mind the repressive apparatus alone cannot do the job, what is needed is an effective long-term preventive approach that addresses corruption as a cultural phenomenon," he told SETimes.
According to Kos, nothing will change unless the indictments and arrests are followed by prosecutions and convictions.
"People from the region have simply been observing all possible misdeeds from the most powerful individuals in their countries without any judicial consequences to start to believe that this is changing now," he said.
"When rigorous application of the law will become rule and not the exemption, societies, states and economies in the region will start to change."