Remarks of Ambassador Susanne Schütz at the Launching event of the Albanian-EU Twinning Project, 16 November 2016
“Albania and the EU – united in the fight against corruption”
Director General Danielsson,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I participate in today’s kick off event for the German-Austrian Twinning Project to support Albania in its fight against corruption and the implementation of anti-corruption policies.
It has been mentioned already: Exactly one week ago the European Commission presented this year’s report on Albania’s progress towards EU integration. While the Commission concluded steady progress towards fulfilling the five key priorities the report underlines that further progress is needed in the fight against corruption. I quote: “Corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a serious problem”.
We all know that corruption is not just a problem for Albania. Rather, we all have to confront it! At the same time we have to acknowledge, however, that some countries are affected more than others.
Even though Albania has made some progress in fighting corruption - also thanks to the committed work of the National Coordinator Against Corruption – people in Albania are still faced with corruption on a daily basis.
Everyone is aware of bribes – more or less small- “required” – so to speak - in hospitals, or in educational institutions where grades and diplomas are sold, or in public service and government, where people siphon off profits by way of manipulating tenders, to name a few classical situations.
I need not explain how damaging corruption is for the development of a country. The negative effects are very well known and have been described extensively. To give a few examples: corruption undermines the functioning of a market economy and raises the costs for products and services. Nepotism in employment prevents the best qualified applicant from getting the job. In cases where safety controls of a machine or a building are simply “bought” there are serious security implications. The list of damages could easily be continued. The level of corruption is also a decisive factor for international businesses to determine where to direct their investment.
Much has been tried to fight and eradicate corruption. There have been numerous meetings and workshops. Government adopted an anti-corruption strategy, and other instruments, like the establishment of anti-corruption contact points or whistle-blower portals where introduced in order to curb the phenomenon. All these are important steps; however, they don’t work to their full potential. More is needed.
We welcome the very serious reform of the judicial system as an important step also in Albania’s fight against corruption; and we appeal to all political forces to support the necessary legislative acts as well as their swift and thorough implementation.
What makes this Joint Austrian-German Project different is that as Twinning Project it goes beyond a workshop and will work together in partnership with the National Coordinator Against Corruption as well as the Central Election Committee, HIAACI, the Commissioner for Data Protection and the High State Audit. The cooperation will last for2 ½ years and will involve two long term experts as well as more than 50 short term experts from various EU-member states. The issue at stake is sustainability. The project aims to develop anti-corruption legislation and regulations as well as concrete implementation measures. This will be achieved through capacity building and train the trainer activities. Awareness-raising measures will tackle the widespread tolerance towards corruption.
Ultimately, the challenge will be to contribute to a real change of mindset, for everyone to take a conscious decision against getting involved in corruption. As international experience shows a proper set of sanctions certainly helps. Therefore, a solid track record of prosecutions and convictions of everyone taking or receiving bribes is crucial.
Albania has no more time to lose to start a real and determined fight against corruption if it wants to finally make a difference for its people. In order to stop migration flows and brain drain, people in Albania, especially the younger generation, need to be given a true perspective free of corruption for themselves and their families in their own country.
With this in mind I wish the project and everyone involved a very successful work.