The European Commission released its first ever corruption report on Monday and the news was not good. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom described the level of corruption in the EU as “breath-taking” and the report indicates that the Czech Republic makes a significant contribution to this unhappy state of affairs. Among the statistics presented: 95 percent of Czechs perceive corruption as widespread and 71 percent of companies consider it to be the main hurdle to doing business in this country. I asked Radim Bureš of the Czech branch of Transparency International how well the report reflects the present state of affairs.
“Well, the EC report seems to be quite well-balanced. It seems that they quite successfully described both the weaknesses and the positive features of the corruption situation in the Czech Republic. I must say that ordinary citizens do not meet with corruption in their daily lives too often. That is the difference between us and countries where the corruption is really widespread. Here corruption is concentrated in the interface between public institutions and business. So on the one hand it is a small number of people who are involved in corruption practices, on the other hand, there are huge financial losses. It (eradicating corruption) is a long-distance run. We cannot expect any significant change in a short time because even the best laws cannot resolve the situation right away. But I really do hope that concentrated measures can spare some percentage of the public funds which are being abused at the moment and that tax-payers will be able to see some positive results in the coming years.”
As you say the main problems are in public procurement and abuse of funds and the EU has called on the political elite to show greater responsibility in this respect, but can we really expect that? People here feel that corruption reaches into the highest echelons of power –can we really hope that the next government will be better than the last?
“Yes, that is a very good question. First of all let me say that I appreciate the EC’s view because it is not speaking only about problems in public procurement but also about political accountability and political leadership. The last elections showed the electorate’s deep dissatisfaction with the traditional parties which patronized these shadow business interests and had links to them. These parties were rejected in the elections and the new parties have come with a clear anti-corruption message. I hope that they will stick to their words and I am moderately optimistic that the present government will act better than the previous ones. “