By Eni Lamce
*This blog post is part of the Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance and Integration series
When hearing the success stories of the events named ‘Arab spring’, ‘Prague spring’, ‘Beijing spring’, all referring to new beginnings, a series of reforms and developments, it is important to remember that these movements began with political and social uprisings, fighting for social awakening and democratic values.
The most recent uprising of high importance in Europe was the Romanian protests in the war against corruption (http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/06/another-country-has-become-a-headache-for-the-eu-andinvestors.html).
The level of trust towards effective political measures from the government has dramatically decreased not only in Romania, but in the entire region.
The European Commission began its anti-corruption policy in 2010 with the Stockholm programme, a policy which would ensure the political commitment of the EU member states as well as the commitment of the candidate countries, by implementing existing legal instruments and monitoring the performances in the fight against corruption.
The policy is loud and clear but when the power to undertake measures is in the hands of the national political elites themselves, the likelihood for rapid positive change to occur is far from the expectations of the voters.
Corruption is found all around Europe (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/european-union-corruption-bribery-sleaze), particularly in the Balkan region, which usually is labelled as such; corrupt with a high level of organised crime.
Taking a look at each of these countries, the factors, outcomes and consequences deriving from the corruption are the same for each case study. Corruption, in the case of Kosovo, caught the attention of media with the launch of the European Union’s Eulex mission, when different types of corruption allegations came into question (https://www.theguardian.com/ world/2014/nov/06/eu-accused-over-kosovo-mission-failings).
In the case of Greece, the majority of the population claimed to face corruption in their everyday lives which considering the status of being a member state country proves that the EU anti-corruption policy faces negative results in combating corruption also in member states (https:// http://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2011/oct/20/europe-breadline-corrution-pervadescorner). Most recently in Serbia, government employees in the customs services were caught up in a corruption scandal (http://www.theindependent.com/news/world/serbia-customsofficers-among-arrested-in-corruption-case/article_ea3c5619-f0fc-520c-b1cab98e40c3af33.html) which again proves that the corruption level remains problematic.
The negative results of EU anti-corruption policy in combating corruption in the region raises the question: why don’t all the Balkan countries engage in protests and uprisings to make a positive change? The resistance of the population of Romania resulted in achieving dramatic change overnight towards implementing stronger anti-corruption policy (https:// http://www.neweurope.eu/article/corruption-scandal-romania-know-now/). Does this mean that massive uprisings always result positively? Looking back in history, in 2013 demonstrations about fighting corruption occurred also in Bulgaria. However, Bulgaria remains the poorest country in the Europe Union and very little if anything all was achieved from this protest (http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/15/sick-ofbeing-treated-like-monkeys-bulgaria-s-protestors-in-their-own-words).
Another current event are the protests about combating corruption in Albania organised by the political elites themselves (https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/04/19/the-eus-borders-andstability-are-at-risk/#1f077d1d6d4b). The protests began in February 2017 and continue till today but the high rates of corruption in Albania remain the same.
However, it is important to realise that the EU anticorruption policy is obviously not enough to combat corruption in the region, at least as long as the power is in the hands of the powerful, therefore ignoring the problem is not the solution. Perhaps, arranging mass mobilisations through the help of social media could actually bring positive change which in the form of domino effect could shift from one country to another.
References: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/06/another-country-has-become-a-headache-for-the-eu-andinvestors.html http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C: 2010:115:0001:0038:EN:PDF https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/european-union-corruption-briberysleaze https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/06/eu-accused-over-kosovo-mission-failings https://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2011/oct/20/europe-breadline-corrutionpervades-corner http://www.theindependent.com/news/world/serbia-customs-officers-among-arrested-incorruption-case/article_ea3c5619-f0fc-520c-b1ca-b98e40c3af33.html http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/15/sick-of-being-treated-like-monkeys-bulgaria-sprotestors-in-their-own-words https://www.neweurope.eu/article/corruption-scandal-romania-know-now/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2017/04/19/the-eus-borders-and-stability-are-at-risk/ #1f077d1d6d4b