On Wednesday, my supervisor sent me to a roundtable hosted by a think tank called the Group for Legal Aid and Political studies titled "The Asset Declarations System and the Fight Against Corruption in Kosovo." Anti-corruption is a huge deal in Kosovo, especially right now as it seeks visa liberalization and candidate status in the European Union (EU) integration process. The perceptions of corruption are high across most governmental sectors and Kosovo lags behind its neighbors in the fight against corruption. Both domestic and international actors widely recognize that if Kosovo hopes to move forward as a country, it must effectively deal with its corruption issues.
My work on the Rule of Law paper has well acquainted me with quantitative data regarding anti-corruption in Kosovo. Working in the country, however, helps me to understand the corruption issues on a much deeper level. The political surveys have been particularly eye-opening. The survey we've conducted with political leaders asks multiple choice questions about one's beliefs about what I would consider to be very basic economic, political, and social issues. I estimate that it would take me around 20 minutes to take the survey if it were administered to me. A few politicians we've interviewed, however, have taken 2 to 3 hours to complete the survey. I asked a co-worker about why it takes so long for some politicians to mark their answers on this anonymous survey. He answered that many of these politicians got positions merely from knowing or being related to someone in power; no political knowledge or conviction is needed if one knows the right people. Whether or not this is true, the perception is telling nonetheless. One politician, who has been in parliament for several years and took nearly three hours to complete the survey, makes almost six times the amount of money that the average Kosovar makes, another indication that many things are much less than transparent.
At any rate, the corruption issues are definitely present, which made the anti-corruption roundtable particularly relevant. A representative from the Group for Legal and Political Studies made opening remarks. She was followed by a representative from the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), a member of the EU office in Kosovo, and a representative from Kosovo's Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA). The discussion was primarily about the effectiveness of asset declaration in the fight against corruption. Although asset declaration has helped Kosovo to become more transparent, there are still many issues to address such as the lack of verification mechanisms, etc. The ACA is trying to address these problems by standardizing declaration forms and issuing clear guidelines for declaration.
As I mentioned above, if Kosovo hopes for visa liberalization or to achieve candidate status for the EU integration process, it must effectively fight corruption. The anti-corruption measures discussed at the roundtable won't reduce corruption overnight, but are steps in the right direction.
This post is a bit shorter than my others because work has been quiet this week. My boss is out of the country on work-related business and almost all of the other interns are on their way to Sarajevo, Bosnia, for the 100-year anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that sparked World War I. Erica and I weren't able to make that trip, but are going to meet up with Ambria Armstrong, a fellow W&M Law student, in Istanbul for the weekend. Ambria's been working in Azerbaijan this summer, so I'm really excited to hear first-hand about her experiences abroad this summer.Ramadan starts on Saturday, so it will also be interesting to be in Turkey for that. Plus, it may be the only time in my life when I can hop on a plane after work on Friday, arrive in Istanbul two hours later, and fly back on Sunday night. I'll be sure to put pictures of our trip in my next post.