Focused efforts to stop government fraud are showing results in some countries.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 18/12/13
Serbia's anti-corruption campaign focused on increased public understanding and knowledge of corruption-related topics and prevention mechanisms. [EU Delegation to Serbia]
Anti-corruption campaigns in Serbia and Montenegro are being credited for the countries' improved showings in a Transparency International index that evaluates national efforts in stopping government fraud.
Serbia improved eight places in the international NGO's latest report, which rated 177 countries based on the responses of thousands of people to questions about the level of corruption in their countries.
Serbia now ranks 72nd in the report. Its improvement was matched by Montenegro, which also improved eight positions and now ranks 67th.
Analysts agree that Serbia's success is due to a strong anti-corruption campaign led by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.
"The severe anti-corruption rhetoric and certain actions by repressive institutions have certainly had an impact on the reduction of corruption in public services, with which potential investors come into contact, and those investors' assessment plays a major part in the forming of a final statement on the presence of corruption," Transparency Serbia Director Vladimir Goati told SETimes.
However, he added, progress will not be sustainable if the base causes of corruption are not removed.
"That means major reforms are necessary in the public sector, serious dedication to prevention, an active prosecution and a responsible judiciary. The European Union is asking all of this from Serbia if it wants to continue European integration," Goati said.
Montenegro's jump in the rankings was also due to a focused government campaign, officials said.
"The progress represents the implementation of activities envisaged by the Strategy and Action Plan for the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as the fulfilment of international obligations in this field. At the same time, it is also a powerful incentive for the further fulfilment of all obligations in the process of EU integration," Vesna Ratkovic, the executive director of the state's anti-corruption agency, told SETimes.
According to the agency, corruption remains widespread in the healthcare, police, education and judiciary sectors.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule recently said the European Commission is concerned about the degree of corruption in Montenegro, and he stressed that the country needs to establish an independent judiciary system.
"We want to see the results in effective and independent investigations and court verdicts for corruption at all levels, including high-level corruption," Fule said in October.
Elsewhere in the region, Croatia moved up five spots from last year to 57th place and Macedonia moved up two places to 67th this year.
The weakest-ranked countries in the region are Albania (116th) and Kosovo (111th). Last year, Albania was 113th and Kosovo 105th.
"It is time to stop those who get away with acts of corruption. The legal loopholes and lack of political will in government facilitate both domestic and cross-border corruption, and call for our intensified efforts to combat the impunity of the corrupt," Transparency International Chairperson Huguette Labelle said after the December 3rd report was released.
Correspondent Drazen Remikovic in Podgorica contributed to this report.
What can your country do to increase anti-corruption efforts? Tell us in the comments.