The Council of Europe, in an unprecedented move, has publicly declared Belarus’ failure in anti-corruption standards adopted in European countries.
Belarus is non-compliant with GRECO’s anti-corruption standards.
The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) criticized Belarusian authorities for not working on recommendations issued back in 2012. Twenty of 24 recommendations “have remained outstanding”.
“GRECO repeatedly concluded that the level of compliance with its recommendations was very low and “globally unsatisfactory”. Belarus has never authorized publication of any of the evaluation or compliance reports,” CoE’s press release states.
According to the President of GRECO Marin Mrčela, continuous non-compliance with the rules and practice of GRECO casts a dark shadow over the commitment of the Belarusian authorities to preventing and combating corruption.
It may also influence Belarus’ relationships with other European states.
“We have warned all our states to take this situation into account in their future contacts with Belarus,” Marin Mrčela added.
“We hope it will provide much-needed impetus for Belarus to step up its efforts to live up to its anti-corruption commitments. We hope it will be a wake-up call to Belarus.”
GRECO will continue to monitor the situation in Belarus.
Why Belarusians give and take bribes?
Belarus ranks 70th out of 180 countries in Global Corruption Index 2018. The country slipped two positions since 2017 and shares its place with Jamaica and the Solomon Islands.
“I repeat again: it’s better to be poor but free than rich but prison,” Belarus president said last November, announcing another set of anti-corruption measures.
But intimidation and imprisonment hardly are the best solution, economics editor of TUT.BY Olga Loiko claims in an op-ed.
She confirms her statement by enumerating the number of recent high-level corruption cases – for example, two big arrests that happened in March 2019 alone.
The EU doesn’t view the regular anti-corruption meetings of Belarusian officials and regular arrests as consistent anti-corruption policy because such moves are sporadic and don’t improve the anti-corruption standards as a whole.
The large majority of the recommendations GRECO issued to Belarus relate to fundamental anti-corruption requirements. Namely, strengthening the independence of the judiciary and of the prosecution office, as well as increasing the operational autonomy of the law enforcement and limiting immunity protection of certain categories of persons.
“Where the head of state voices the only option as “poor but free or rich but in prison”, an official or a business person will conclude that any their decision will result in problems with controlling authorities and law enforcement,” Olga Loiko writes. Hence, they choose to be rich.
Without the reforms in the economy, an open legal state and the functioning system of checks and balances, the situation with corruption in Belarus will hardly improve, the editor believes.