Anti-corruption revisited: the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Anti-Korruptions-Strategien in der Kritik: Tschechien und Slowakei als Analysefälle

Abstract

Corruption is an urgent problem in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Whereas the new Czech government has pushed anti-corruption plans, in Slovakia, a special court and prosecution office are in place facing constant challenges. In both countries, the issue has been highly politicised and the adaptation of anti-corruption institutions as well as the implementation of legislation have been poor. This paper examines whether those shortcomings can be explained by elite-based “politics of corruption”. Basically, on a general scale, the paper shows the relation between politics and corruption and identifies a gap between anti-corruption efforts and results. The conclusion finds that anti-corruption in both states has no serious political base while, depending on single personalities, there have been some achievements in this respect in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Zusammenfassung

Korruption stellt sich als dringendes Problem sowohl in der tschechischen Republik als auch in der Slowakei dar. Zwar wurden in beiden Staaten verschiedene Anti-Korruptions-Gesetze oder -Institutionen etabliert, dennoch bleibt Korruption eine konstante Herausforderung. In beiden Staaten bleiben Anti-Korruptions-Maßnahmen erheblich politisiert und die Umsetzung der installierten Anti-Korruptionsmaßahmen verbleibt auf niedrigem Niveau. Der Beitrag erarbeitet den Nexus zwischen der politischen Sphäre und der verbreiteten Korruption und erklärt die geringen Implementationserfolge in der Anti-Korruptionspolitik beider Staaten.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the end, almost half of the citizens equated the VV party with corruption (44 % of the polled), http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/ct24/domaci/172796-kdyz-se-rekne-korupce-lide-si-vybavi-vv-a-bartu/. On anti-corruption politics for example or http://www.respektinstitut.cz/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Metodika-o-korupci-Respekt-institut.pdf or http://www.dbm.cz/pruzkumy/english/?id=98 (Accessed 20 Oct 2012).

  2. 2.

    Until then, the two countries were united as Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had been a democracy in the inter-War period from 1918 to 1938. In 1993 the two parts split peacefully into two sovereign states.

  3. 3.

    On the 2011 CPI–Corruption Perceptions Index the Czech Republic and Slovakia rank 57 and 66, compared for example with 2010 when they ranked 53 and 59 respectively http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/ (Accessed 10 Mar 2013).

  4. 4.

    See the tables in the annexe of this work on CPI and Freedom House assessments of corruption in the two countries. Local organizations underline that the perception of corruption remains high, see for example the CVVM report (2011) on corruption perception in the public service in the Czech Republic (Accessed 01 Oct 2011).

  5. 5.

    Recent examples are the Slovak vote on the EU bailout fund in October 2011 which led to the fall of the Radičová government; or disputes within the VV party and the Social-Democratic Party in the Czech Republic in autumn 2011.

  6. 6.

    See the Economist (2011). The grim assessment is criticized by the then Interior Minister Kubice (Respekt 2011b). The following website lists the most important corruption cases in the Czech Republic and shows the varieties of corruption in the country that do not follow party lines, and supports the underneath argument that political elites cannot be differentiated in this respect. http://kmotrdrobek.jex.cz/menu/afery-a-korupce/afery-v-politice (Accessed 15 Oct 2011).

  7. 7.

    On detailed degrees and perceptions of corruption see the Transparency International Slovakia reports named “Protikorupčné Minimum”, Sičáková-Beblavá (2011) and Lízal and Kocenda (2001) for the Czech Republic (until 2001).

  8. 8.

    A large survey of firms found that levels of administrative corruption came down, in particular in Slovakia (Rousso and Stevens 2006: 264).

  9. 9.

    Corruption in the education and the health sector has been important, but falls under sectoral corruption that most often does not has political connections. An interesting case were the false law degrees assigned by the Plzeň University until 2009 (Radio Prague 2009).

  10. 10.

    Lízal and Kocenda (2001, p. 146) argue that most cases of corruption are connected to public tenders.

  11. 11.

    See the case of ČEZ CEO Martin Roman, the biggest state-owned energy group in the country. He was suspected to have contacts to his former private employer Škoda Plzeň – the case is allegedly linked to MUS (see footnote 20; ČTK 2011).

  12. 12.

    Rose-Ackerman (1999) shows the various possibilities of how to influence major government programs and policy areas. Lízal and Kocenda (2001) have discussed those problems in regard to the Czech Republic.

  13. 13.

    Elite interviews would have provided a biased result. The qualitative research was based on expert interviews, international NGO insights (Transparency International and others), and well-respected newspapers, such as the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung and The New York Times, and national coverage by the investigative Czech weekly Respekt and daily Mladá Front Dnes, Lidové Noviny also covering Slovakia, the Slovak weekly Týždeň and the daily Sme. The Slovak case has the methodological disadvantage of a distorted media landscape and most information therefore comes from TI, Freedom House or Czech sources. Self-critical analysis of political elite behaviour is rare, but can happen. See the interview with former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in the Czech daily Lidové Noviny on 24 November 2007.

  14. 14.

    In the case of a Kurdish businessman, the proceedings were delayed, witnesses not heard, and defence of the accused Yekta Uzunoglu was not adequate. After 13 years a verdict of not guilty was issued (Radio Prag 2007a).

  15. 15.

    The campaign produced around fifty cases, with the former finance minister being the subject of one of them. It was admitted to be a failure and terminated in early 2000.

  16. 16.

    The actual privatization process at first appeared to be relatively free of overt corruption. “In 1994, however, the police arrested the director of the Center for Voucher Privatization, Jaroslav Linzer” (Deegan-Krause 2006, p. 64) – he was accused of having accepted bribes.

  17. 17.

    Even if the Czech Republic received its most favourable CPI rating ever (see annexe).

  18. 18.

    See Idnes.cz (2000) on the (illegal) party financing of the ODS; extensively Tabery (2008) and Kudrna and Volná (2007).

  19. 19.

    As well-known from organized crime, business is most profitable in cases of ceasefire, mutual agreements and the separation of the relevant business branches.

  20. 20.

    Probably the most serious case was put to a Swiss court, the Mostecká uhelná společnost MUS, today’s Czech Coal, (http://www.czechcoal.cz/en/index.html) was privatized for a ridiculous amount of 26 million Euros (allegedly Zeman stood behind the deal, see Kudrna and Volná 2007). Swiss procurators confiscated assets worth a couple of billion in Switzerland. The finance ministry and the Prague state prosecution sabotaged investigations and ignored the Swiss charge (Radio Prag 2011b). This provoked a strong Swiss reaction: the stripped money would probably not be returned to the Czech state (NZZ 2012) – a final decision was to be made in autumn 2013.

  21. 21.

    On his (dubious) activities also http://vladneme.cz/?doc=slouf (Accessed 10 Jan 2013).

  22. 22.

    On rather ridiculous grounds: he was accused of cross-checking information on his private computer. The Supreme Court dismissed the charges as late as 2003 (Kudrna and Volná 2007).

  23. 23.

    Former government elites were thought to be involved in his ousting, namely, former Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, then vice president of the Czech Parliament (Kundra and Spurný 2008).

  24. 24.

    For example in the person of the police president Vladislav Husák. He violated the speed limit, donated CZK 10,000 and gave up his driving license for three months. The daily Mladá Fronta Dnes complained that other citizens would have had to pay 22,500 plus would have received a year’s ban on driving. The police president was additionally accused that he had warned key suspects ahead of their planned arrest. He had to step down in March 2000.

  25. 25.

    Tabery (2008) offers an in-depth analysis of the whole governing period. The impressive documentary film Vládneme nerušit provides details on government-business connections, corruption scandals and the infiltration of independent agencies (Kudrna and Volná 2007; only in Czech).

  26. 26.

    See http://kmotrdrobek.jex.cz/menu/afery-a-korupce/afery-v-politice (Accessed 15 Oct 2011).

  27. 27.

    He had to step down because he purchased an expensive luxury flat and financed it with a loan from an unclear source. In September 2007, the Czech daily Mladá Fronta Dnes revealed additionally that he owned a major stake in the energy company Moravia Energo that he could not have purchased from his own income (Mladá Fronta Dnes 2007 and Spurný 2007c).

  28. 28.

    See the so-called Kubice-report under http://zpravakubice.sweb.cz/ (Accessed 10 Oct 2011).

  29. 29.

    Later, it was proved that the accusations were constructed and illegal, but nobody had to take the consequences.

  30. 30.

    Zdenĕk Doležel, the former head of the prime minister secretariat of Stanislav Gross and Jiři Paroubek, was even accused of having planned the murder of Jan Kubice.

  31. 31.

    Additionally, the ÚOOZ was forced not to pay overtime, as the superiors knew very well that the most important informants would not meet during office time.

  32. 32.

    As above mentioned Stanislav Gross bought a flat with suspicious money, another politician, Jiří Čunek, received social welfare. The KDU-ČSL politician allegedly obtained 18,000 Euros from a real estate agency, and was accused of receiving bribes. Czech television reported in 2008 that he had accumulated three and a half million CZK in his bank account in the mid-1990s, at the same time receiving social benefits.

  33. 33.

    In most cases, the politicians were successfully influencing important judicial cases in their favour. For example, ČSSD corruption around alternative fuel transactions caused the state losses of millions of CZK. However, the state prosecutor stopped investigation in summer 2007. Political scientist Jan Bureš holds that politicians in positions such as Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, even if they should have had different attitudes toward corruption, closed themselves in and only had contact with their close collaborators (Lidové Noviny 2007).

  34. 34.

    Or not named, such as the refusal of Czech President Václav Klaus to name Petr Langer judge in spring 2008 – the judge was not named as long as Klaus kept his office until March 2013. Supposedly, the same has been the case in Slovakia.

  35. 35.

    The new general prosecutor put himself in a favourable light and accused the former environment minister Pavel Drobil (ODS) of illegal party financing, not without any reason (Radio Prag 2011f).

  36. 36.

    The interior minister is still the superior of the police president and the state prosecution. In an interview with the weekly Respekt (2011b) Jan Kubice outlined the intended reforms (the 2008 proposed reforms had largely not materialized). They should reduce administrative leverage in the police and facilitate the cooperation between the anti-corruption agency SPOK (whose director still was the same one installed in the above mentioned period), the anti-organized crime unit ÚOOZ and the anti-drugs unit.

  37. 37.

    Justice Minister Pospíšil claimed to support the establishment of such agency (Radio Prag 2011f). He had to go in 2012.

  38. 38.

    See http://www.nfpk.cz/_userfiles/soubory/odkazy/nerv-boj-proti-korupcisbornik.pdf (Accessed 05 Oct 2011).

  39. 39.

    Vlasta Parkanová was also vice speaker of parliament. Those networks were supposedly directed by the former Minister of Defence Martin Bartak. Bartak has been a year-long security policy adviser of Petr Nečas.

  40. 40.

    He was also suspected to have stopped investigation on a corruption case related to a former minister of environment. A document of the state prosecution that ordered to stop the prosecution leaked to the public (document 1439, Kundra 2011). His successor became the prosecutor of the Rath case (see underneath), Lenka Bradáčová (Radio Prag 2012). Presumably, corruption networks in the Prague city hall were also backed by him. See leaked documents cited in Prague Post (2012). Notorious corruption cases were for example asset-stripping in the Investment and Post Bank (IPB), and corrupted army tenders; among others the Gripen, Pandur and CASA cases (ČTK 2011a). The Economist (2011) cites three Czech doctoral students that have found that around 14 % of all tenders between 2006 and 2010 had only one bidder, and 67 % of all the procurements were not shown in the public database.

  41. 41.

    Prosecutors pushed bribery allegations of members of parliament - but the outcome was not clear at the stage of writing (Radio Prague 2013b). Another example was presidential conduct. Outgoing President Václav Klaus issued an amnesty law a few weeks after the end of his office in 2012 that also stopped investigation in a dozen of serious corruption cases. For example, the investigation of a judge who was charged with manipulating tenders.

  42. 42.

    Notorious were those of Vladimír Mečiar and Ivan Čarnogurský, then vice president of the Slovak National Council.

  43. 43.

    Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar allegedly paid 41 Million Slovak Crowns for the reconstruction of his house “Elektra” in cash and refused to inform the public on the origins of this amount of money (Vagovič 2011). Besides, this has been also a feature of the political-economic landscape in the Czech Republic.

  44. 44.

    2011, a court asked Kovač to apologize to Lexa. See Vagovič/Hanus (2011).

  45. 45.

    It is no wonder that CPI and Freedom House ratings have been low. Interestingly, the CPI placed the first Dzurinda governments even lower, while Freedom House registered stagnation (see annexe).

  46. 46.

    The Rezeš family (Július and his father Alexander Rezeš) were some of the most prominent actors in the Slovak wild privatizations of the 1990s that culminated in high-scale privatization scandals with huge financial loss for the Slovak state.

  47. 47.

    In 2005, he impeded that the case could come before the Special Court (ŠS) in Pezinok, which was established in 2005 to investigate political corruption and political-criminal networks independently (Slovak Spectator 2005).

  48. 48.

    See the “Gorila” scandal of 2011, described underneath.

  49. 49.

    At the same time, the EU suspended pre-accession funding because of corruption (Slovak Spectator 2001). In 2002, several public officials were accused of corruption. The most prominent to leave its office was the transportation minister (Freedom House 2003). Afterwards, the randomized case management system was turned ad absurdum in re-assigning cases by different means (Piussi 2011).

  50. 50.

    See for example the strategy presented by the former Minister of Interior John: http://www.mvcr.cz/mvcren/article/new-anti-corruption-strategy-introduced.aspx (Accessed 01 Oct 2011).

  51. 51.

    The establishment of the independent institutions did not solve the problem of a corrupted justice system in Slovakia (Šimecka 2011a).

  52. 52.

    For example, the case of the bankrupt Devín banka that involved several murders and disappearances. On 10 January 2007, the Special Court handed down one of its most significant decisions. Three former managers of bankrupt investment companies Horizont Slovakia and BMG Invest were sentenced to between seven and eleven and a half years for embezzlement.

  53. 53.

    The Majský case has been an example. Jozef Majský was condemned for twelve years in April 2007 for heading a criminal group. The Special Court faced a revision of its verdict on the grounds of formal irregularities. The case was given back to the Special Court. In the end, Jozef Majský succeeded with a complaint in front of the Supreme Court that annulled the previous rulings and set him free (Javůrek 2007).

  54. 54.

    In the period of the 1990s some of those politicians turned surprisingly rich during the privatization of large enterprises.

  55. 55.

    According to “Gorila” he was placed in this function to find incriminating evidence against Lipšic. This would additionally underline his role as independent actor.

  56. 56.

    The Czech Republic improved from 51 (2004) to 41 (2007) http://archive.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2004, http://archive.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2007 (Accessed 01 Oct 2011).

  57. 57.

    Concerning corruption perception ratings (CPI) and Freedom House, the situation improved considerably from 3.7 to 4.7 and from 3.75 to 3.0 (see annexe).

  58. 58.

    Most of the suspicions were confirmed the context of the “Gorila” case, see below.

  59. 59.

    Interestingly, the Czech Republic itself was preparing the ground for a Slovak-inspired battle against corruption with a special court and prosecution, attached special police units and secret agents, and the institution of a principal witness.

  60. 60.

    It released the names of former collaborators and agents in June 2007, and made the archives accessible through the internet.

  61. 61.

    Examples in the “Gorila” file posted under www.gorilafile.wordpress.com. The original “Gorila” file is for example found under: http://pastebin.com/Vqgb77Qz (Accessed 10 Jan 2013).

  62. 62.

    Sentenced: 112, 168, 130, 164, 167 for 2006–2010. See table 3 in Sičáková-Beblavá et al. (2011, p. 3).

  63. 63.

    For example current Czech President Zeman characterized Czech journalists as “the dumbest creation on earth;” translated from and quoted in Kudrna and Volná (2007).

  64. 64.

    One of the major scandals concerned the Slovak Land Fund – Robert Fico hat to dismiss the deputy director of the fund and the agriculture minister. A major issue was EU fund corruption: it concerned public procurement at the construction ministry overseen by a Slovak National Party (SNS) minister. Freedom House and the government underlined that those branches, including courts (and the health sector) have been the most affected (Prague Post 2011). Besides, the Czech Republic faced an EU fund freeze in 2012.

  65. 65.

    On the usual ratings Fico was even better rated in his first years (see annexe).

  66. 66.

    For an overview of the campaign see Haughton et al. 2011.

  67. 67.

    SIS agents had installed a legal wire tape between 2005/2006, and requested their superiors to act. Then police president Tibor Gašpar (featuring in the transcripts in connection to Penta) allegedly said there was no chance of investigation. After 2010 they wrote to Lipšic, and made another effort to push the case, the report was handed in again (it had been lost), but the investigation team was harassed and closed down. Nicolson further describes the general reluctance to “go into it” under every government. See Tom Nicholson in Piussi (2011), Nicholson (2012), and Piussi (20102012).

  68. 68.

    Allegedly corrupt behaviour of highly-positioned employees has taken place in the Office for the Fight against Corruption, and some officials have been accused of having accepted bribes in order to stop investigations (The Slovak Spectator 2010a).

  69. 69.

    Transparency International Slovakia found that there was some improvement. http://www.transparency.sk/sk/analyza-hodnotenie/ (Accessed 20 Oct 2012).

  70. 70.

    A judge was alleged to cover up cases and co-responsible for the death of a co-judge (Piussi 2011). Consequently, she filed a criminal complaint for her coverage in Piussi (2011). Prosecution was stopped after international protests in January 2013 (The Slovak Spectator 2013). In the course of disciplinary proceedings several judges were removed, among them Juraj Majchrák, the vice-chair of the Slovak Supreme Court, and sharpest critic of Harabín, who was driven to suicide. Harabín was additionally accused of having close contacts to an Albanian drug cartel boss. The issue was discussed 2008 in parliament at the time Harabín was justice minister. The general prosecutor confirmed the authenticity of the tapes – the result was that Harabín was granted compensation for the damages on his reputation. Details in Piussi (2011) and Šimečka (2012).

  71. 71.

    Sičáková-Beblavá et al. (2011, p. 28) also offer a list of corruption cases broken down to political parties and ministries. This paper is the most comprehensive on Slovakian anti-corruption politics.

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Correspondence to Dr. Nicole Gallina.

Annexure

Annexure

Table 1 Slovak Prime Ministers and State Presidents (Slovak Republic)
Table 2 Czech Prime Ministers and State Presidents (Czech Republic)

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Gallina, N. Anti-corruption revisited: the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 7, 183–218 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12286-013-0155-8

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Keywords

  • Anti-corruption
  • Political elites
  • Czech Republic
  • Slovakia

Schlüsselwörter

  • Anti-Korruption
  • Politische Eliten
  • Tschechische Republik
  • Slowakei