The round table took place on November 16, 2010, in the premises of the Bulgarian Parliament. It was organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and was hosted by the Internal Security and Public Order Committee. The participants were presented with the main findings and conclusions from the first systemic research of the links and the interaction between the organized crime and corruption as an illicit instrument in all of the 27 EU Member States. In addition, recommendations to the European Commission and the Member States about undertaking practical measures and policies to prevent this phenomenon were discussed.
The round table started with opening remarks from Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the CSD Board, and from Mr. Anastas Anastasov, Deputy-Chair of the Parliament and Chairman of the Internal Security and Public Order Committee. In his opening words Dr. Shentov stressed the fact that corruption and organized crime are problems that face all modern societies, including the EU Member States. Although both corruption and organized crime are relatively known and analysed in detail, their linkage represents one of the white spots in contemporary social sciences. It is precisely this link, however, that impacts in a decisive manner the whole process of designing and implementing the policies to counter corruption and organized crime. On an EU level this analytical report is the first and only corruption/organized crime analysis so far.
Mr. Anastas Anastasov emphasized the importance of fighting corruption and stressed the existing consensus between public authorities and the non-government sector to work together to solve this priority problem facing the country. He reminded that undertaking reforms in Bulgaria’s institutions represents a priority task for the current 41-rst People’s Assembly.
Mr. Philip Gounev, Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy, presented the report’s main findings. The analysis shows Member Countries are characterized by different levels of corruption/organized crime linkage. Seven clusters of countries emerge with Danemark, Finland and Sweden forming the first one, where the link between corruption and organized crime is the weakest, while Bulgaria, Poland and Romania pertain to the last, seventh cluster, where this link is the strongest. Political corruption represents the most potent instrument, and police and local authorities are the institutions were corruption pressure is the strongest. One significant difference between Western and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, is that while serious crime is not linked to traditional forms of organized crime in the former; such a linkage still exists in the latter region.
Mr. Tihomir Bezlov, Senior Analyst of the CSD, elaborated on the research conclusions in what regards corruption in the sector of police, the Judiciary and local government. On the one hand they show a wide spectrum of corruption activities, while specific forms of countering corruption, on the other. In part of the Member States these phenomena are not accepted as a legitimate public discussion topic, which creates the impression that they are non-existent. Mr. Bezlov cited examples and good practices in countering corruption in the police and local government in the U.K. and Italy, which could be successfully replicated in this country.
Mr. Tsvetlin Yovchev, Chairman of the State Agency for National Security, outlined the existence of both objective and subjective reasons for establishing links between corruption and organized crime. The accumulation of financial benefits from illicit activities is conductive to the emergence of crime-prone environment. This is an additional reason for destroying the links between those who order and those who implement illicit activities. Limiting the financial resources will make it impossible to corrupt officials, who are targeted by organized crime. Countering criminal activities include measures, linked to disrupting criminal finances, in addition to raising the risks for organized crime activities and imposing appropriate penalties.
Mr. Yonchev stressed the importance of cooperation between state institutions, in addition to developing a risk analysis and improving information gathering to facilitate criminal investigations.
Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Director of CSD’s Economic Program, informed the participants about the report’s recommendations to the European Commission and to the EU Member States. Mr.Stefanov stressed that developing policies to counter corruption and organized crime consistent with the Stockholm Strategy, has direct implications for Member States’ national security, in addition to the functioning of the internal market, and to the European Union energy and financial security. The report recommends both short term and long term measures to be undertaken by the European Commission. In the long term a new independent European mechanism for assessing corruption on an EU level is recommended. It should gather data from different sources and compare them to law-enforcement statistics and information in order to present an objective picture of corruption threats within the EU. Such a mechanism would supplement the redundant mechanism for assessing the law-enforcement activities to counter corruption in the EU in the framework of Europol’s Organised Crime Threat Assessment. Such a step would also facilitate the introduction of a universal assessment methodology for measuring risks from organized crime. In a short term the report recommends to the European Commission to work on introducing a common definition of corruption, harmonizing statistical data on institutional corruption and assessing the level and impact of corruption on business. The recommendations to the Member States are aimed mainly to improving the process of sharing good practices in the framework of the EU and in employing the existing instruments to counter corruption and organized crime in a more effective way. The paper outlines the importance of regularly assessing the anti-corruption measures such as implementing the OECD Convention Recommendation on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Raising the internal capabilities of law-enforcement authorities to uncover corruption cases and more active cooperation with the private sector are also recommended.
Mr. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of Interior, described the existing symbiosis between organized crime and corruption in Bulgaria. He reminded that this country’s problems with organized crime and corruption were highlighted in the latest European Commission report. This dire situation had resulted essentially from ignoring flagrant violations of existing laws and from the lack of political will to cope with corruption and organized crime. On the other hand Mr. Tsvetanov stressed, that the current leadership of the Ministry of Interior has the ambition to implement the “Borcor” project, which eventually will become an effective instrument in countering corruption and organized crime. Another step in this direction, aimed to fill a significant policy gap, is the assessment of the risks from organized crime. He highlighted the importance of the Interior Ministry cooperation with SOCA, Europol, and the Bulgarian Center for the Study of Democracy, which has a coordination role in the efforts of developing and introducing a common assessment of threats from organized crime. In conclusion Mr. Tsvetanov recommended a more active application of civil society expertise and a closer interaction between representatives from all public sectors as a way to achieve the selected targets and to limit the impact of organized crime and corruption on public life.
In his closing remarks Dr. Shentov outlined the importance of restoring the confidence of the Euro-Atlantic partners in Bulgarian Interior Ministry and in the State Agency of National Security by using new instruments and formats like organized crime threat assessment and the dialogue between law-enforcement and private sector aimed at harmonizing the efforts for developing such an analysis and assessment.