The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor member states’ compliance with the organization’s anti-corruption standards, is currently holding a two-day conference in Prague. Its aim is to highlight the main trends and the lessons learned from GRECO’s Fourth Evaluation Round of the Czech Republic’s anti-corruption drive.
Daniela Lazarová of Radio Prague spoke with GRECO's President Marin Mrčela about the Czech Republic’s track record in fighting corruption, the recommendations for improvement that GRECO has made and how much progress the country has made since joining GRECO in 2002.
Can you briefly say where progress has been made and where it is still lacking?
“The third round (of evaluation) dealt with the transparency of party funding and those recommendations were met but we are still waiting for the results of the fourth evaluation round. The problem areas we identified there were prevention of corruption among members of Parliament, a code of conduct which is lacking in the Parliament of the Czech Republic, there is a need to set down rules regarding contacts between MPs and lobbyists, the area of assets declarations for MPs also needs to be improved. So those are all areas that need to be improved in order to increase trust and confidence in parliamentarians because the key word is their transparency.”
Would you say that the problem lies more in the need to approve a proper legislative framework –or in its implementation?
“We need to persuade people that it is not normal and it is not acceptable that when you go to the doctor to bring coffee, whisky and candies.”
“We are always looking to both. In some cases there is perfect legislation, but there is no implementation. In other cases – other countries, not the Czech Republic – we have a good practice, but practically no legislation. So we recommend both. But my experience is that in most countries you have the legislation but not its implementation.”
And in the Czech Republic?
“In the Czech Republic you also need the rules, the code of conduct –MPs interacting with third parties, asset declarations, the criteria for recruitment and promotion of judges and so on. So you need these kind of rules, but even if you have perfect rules you still need good people to implement them. Without good people even a perfect law is basically futile. You don’t have good results if you don’t have good people.”
So if you are not using the Corruption Perception Index, which may be unreliable, what are you using?
“First we have a questionnaire –which is very detailed and burdensome to fulfil. And after we receive the answers to that questionnaire from a given country we pay the country a study visit. We go to the country for a week and meet representatives of state bodies, NGOs and the media and all our conversations, all our counterparts are confidential. Then we draft a report on the actual situation, we have standards that apply from the Council of Europe and we match the factual situation to the standards given and then we issue recommendations. Our recommendations are tailor-made, because there are different systems, there are Anglo-American systems, there are civil systems, you know we have 49 members including the United States, so you can imagine what kind of differences we encounter when we work in an former communist bloc state and then go to the UK, or US and then to Finland. We see big differences. But we are proud of our tailor-made recommendations because they are adjusted to the situation in the country, based on our standards.”
“And GRECO members know that we do not issue these recommendations because we think we are smart or because we think the countries should obey them or any other such reasons. These recommendations are for the sake of citizens, to improve the situation in the country, because there is no perfect country and corruption will always be there. It is sad to say that, but in some counties –if they follow the recommendations – the actual situation improves tremendously.”
.... One of our recommendations in the fourth round is related to implementation – that is an area where the country needs to step up its efforts.”
Photo/Credit: Council of Europe
3rd March 2021