Ambassadors of five countries, including the US, Great Britain and South Korea, have appealed to the Czech Republic to step up its fight against corruption. The appeal was published on Tuesday on the occasion of International Anticorruption Day. It calls on Czechs to fulfil the anti-corruption commitments listed in the Open Government Partnership, which the Czech Republic joined in 2011. I spoke to David Ondráčka of Transparency International, who told me he was not surprised by the move:
“I only welcome that the ambassadors are taking steps to extend pressure on the Czech government to be more efficient in implementing anti-corruption strategies. There is no doubt that the level of corruption influences the business environment and level of investment in this country.
“And western countries are concerned that the Czech Republic is lagging behind. If you look at the corruption perception index, we are unfortunately behind most of our neighbours in that regard, which is actually a very poor signal to the rest of Europe.”
Would you actually say that the poor perception of corruption could be regarded as something positive because it shows that they are aware of corruption in the society?
“We have to hope that this is the start of a positive trend and that the perception of corruption will improve because perception per se is actually influencing the reality. So we have to be aware that we are still far beyond countries that we should look at as a benchmark.
“We need to really allow free investigation of corruption cases, we need to be very consistent in changing anti-corruption reform and, last but not least, we need to make very clear that if there is any case of wrongdoing we will take very clear steps to deduce personal accountability.”
Why do you think it was this particular group of countries (the US, Great Britain, South Korea, Norway, and Canada) has called on the Czech Republic to fulfil the anti-corruption commitment?
“I am not sure why it was this particular group, but I suppose that countries like the US or Great Britain are actually setting the standards of good government and transparency globally.
“So actually these are countries that have something to offer and they also provide a kind of moral guidance which is needed in the Czech Republic.”
Is it common for countries to appeal to other states and should we regard it as a signal that the situation is really serious?
“Diplomats have to be very careful and the line is pretty sensitive but I believe that we have to be able to provide some kind of peer review between countries. And if a country is not doing well in some regard it should be reminded of that and the other countries have to be very vocal about it.
“So if you think of our membership in the EU, we are actually members of an elite club, and we need to be reminded from time to time that we have obligations to fulfil and that we really have to do much more to enforce them.”