Discussing Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Greece

The political and economic turmoil that hit Greece since 2009 also shed a light on the issue of corruption in the country. The ANTICORRP project looks at corruption and anti-corruption strategies in the entire world, but naturally has a particular focus on what is happening in the European Union and also in Greece. The results of the project were now a focus of a conference that took was organised in Athens by ANTICORRP partner ELIAMEP on 24 October 2016.

The conference started with a focus on the general results of the ANTICORRP project. Following introductions by Dia Anagnostou, Assistant Professor at Panteion University and Nikiforos Diamandouros, European Ombudsman 2003-2013, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governanc) presented central results of the five-year research project.  She argued that effective control of corruption requires more than the adoption of specific tools and strict legal regulations. It relies on a balance between a state calibrated to reduce opportunities for corrupt practices and a society’s capacity to hold its government accountable. As a means to measure progress, Prof. Mungiu-Pippidi presented the Index of Public Integrity (IPI), a new indicator to assess the control of corruption. Maria Gavouneli, Assistant Professor at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, followed her presentation by discussing discussed the characteristics that domestic legislation needs to have in order to be able to effectively curb corruption.

In the second part the conference looked at the contributions ELIAMEP made to the project. Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos (National Kapodistrian University of Athens) and D.A. Sotiropoulos discussed corruption and accountability in Greece. They argued that only the economic crisis has generated pressure for tackling corruption. From 2011 onward, substantive legislative efforts have been made to cover loopholes in the legal framework and reinforce institutional capacity for control. Efforts to combat corruption however have gone hand in hand with party competition and the use of the legal and institutional anti-corruption arsenal as a means to target rival political parties and politicians.

Dia Anagnostou and Evangelia Psychogiopoulou (ELIAMEP) followed their discussion by presenting a new study on the regulation of political financing in Europe and EU Member States’ compliance with recommendations by the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). Although most European countries possess a basic regulatory framework on the financing of political parties, considerable differences exist between the EU Member States as regards the volume of regulation and the restrictions introduced. They remarked that countries with a rudimentary or moderate regulatory framework tend to be more effective in controlling corruption in general than those countries enjoying a dense regulatory framework. Yannis Androulakis, lecturer at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, then discussed the contribution of penal law to the fight against corruption in Greece. He gave an overview of the improvements and modifications that have been recently brought to the legal framework and also pointed to the deficiencies of the existing anti-corruption framework. Dr Thanasis Ksiros, lawyer, presented the legal framework on the financing of political parties in Greece and its evolution.

In the same week, the ANTICORRP project also assembled a focus group looking at key issues in corruption and anti-corruption in Greece. Led by Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance) the discussion focused in particular on the following issues:

  • Why is Greece below the EU average on corruption? Is the country as corrupt as it was? Has there been any real redress?
  • Is there a domestic demand for less corruption? If yes, what forms does it take?
  • Has the Greek deficit been caused by corruption? If there are any causal links, have they been removed?
  • Has Greece become a merit-based society? Does corruption lead to brain drain? What should be done in order to promote meritocracy?
  • Corrupt societies discourage innovation. Is this true in the case of Greece? If yes, is any action taken to prevent this?
  • Are EU funds a resource for corruption or one for redress?

The questions sparked a lively discussion. One of the points participants tended to agree upon was the significant improvements brought to the legal framework during the past few years in the context of the crisis, and largely in response to the reforms that the Greek government agreed with its lenders to undertake. The institutional anti-corruption arsenal has been substantially strengthened. However, implementation problems were said to persist mainly due to limited resources, the lack of personnel and expertise, and the absence of coordination and interconnected procedures. Participants also agreed on the lack of objective surveys and statistics on corruption in Greece. The discussion showed that while progress has been made, Greece still has room for improvements in its anti-corruption framework. It also showed that the research agenda for anti-corruption scholars is still full and needs dedicated scholars to advance it further.

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