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Confronting Strategic Corruption and Illicit Finance: Democratic Resilience and Economic Security

Vilnius, Lithuania
Key speakers

Building on the Summit for Democracy’s Cohort on Anti-Corruption Policies and National Security, the Center for the Study of Democracy, the regional civil society network and the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative held a workshop during the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) on 20 June 2024 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The discussion featured Christian Beck, MEP Daniel Freund’s Head of Office at the European Parliament, Dr. Oksana Huss, Anti-corruption and Public Integrity Policy Analyst, OECD and Associate Researcher, BIT-ACT, University of Bologna, Prof. Dr. Elizabeth David-Barrett, Director, Centre for the Study of Corruption, University of Sussex, Dr. David Jackson, Senior Adviser, U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre, Daniela Mineva, Senior Analyst, Economic Program, Center for the Study of Democracy, Dr. Nedim Hogic, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Oslo and Dr. Ramadan Ilazi, Head of Research, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies.

The workshop panelists delved into how corruption has evolved into both a strategic threat (used by authoritarian regimes to undermine democracies), and a systematic policy gap (state capture subverting government policy and decision-making in favor of private interests). The participants recommended that corruption risk assessments should go beyond potential monetary losses and the frequency of corruption occurring. Instead, they should focus also on the damage done to public institutions’ abilities to perform and uphold the public interest. In particular, Prof. Dr. Elizabeth David-Barrett stressed that “Strategic corruption is a political issue and we need more than technical measures. The EU’s strongest Rule of Law tool of conditionality failed to curb corruption and we need rather political solutions.” CSD and the University of Sussex work under the GI-ACE program to develop more workable tools to tackle the nexus of corruption and illicit financial flows.

At regional level in Southeast Europe, SELDI’s research has shown that the window for bolder reforms, seems to has now closed. Daniela Mineva, who presented some of the findings from SELDI’s upcoming Regional Anti-Corruption Report 2024 highlighted that newly adopted legislation is not being enforced, while newly created public bodies lack capacities and remain inefficient. The anti-corruption strategies do not address the risks of foreign influence through corruption, they also lack impact, focus and measurable goals. There is a need of a better understanding of the latest schemes and tools used by authoritarian countries exerting malign influence, and the factors facilitating state capture at national level, as well as of higher support for reform-minded CSOs, experts, and policy-makers, while the focus is placed on actual impact and results.

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