Five new fact sheets published:
Anti-corruption in the Western Balkan countries
People in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia distrust politicians, civil servants and people attached to the judiciary. Such attitudes are not necessarily the result of personal experience. ‘Because so many people assume that civil servants are corrupt, it is easy to behave accordingly,' says FAFO researcher Åse Berit Grødeland.
'In general, people in these three countries have little trust in the authorities. This is partly due to the fact that, historically, the region has been under foreign rule. Moreover, during the socialist period, public resources were regarded as joint property, and many people therefore believed that there was nothing wrong with helping themselves to them. Some of the behaviour we see today is certainly a result of this,' says Åse Berit Grødeland (FAFO), head of the research project 'Legal Culture and Anti-Corruption Reform: The Case of the West Balkans'.
The project is presented in one of a series of fact sheets published from projects funded by the Western Balkan Countries Development Studies activity under the NORGLOBAL programme.
The project also cooperates with four partners in the Western Balkans. The think tank Argument is participating in Belgrade (Serbia). Pro Media, which is attached to the city's university, is taking part in Skopje (Macedonia). In Kosovo, the project is cooperating with the research and analysis institute IPOL. The project's fourth partner is the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (Washington D.C.), represented by Elton Skendaj, who is originally from Albania and has in-depth knowledge about the Albanians in the Western Balkans.
‘There is also a tradition in the Western Balkans for looking after one's own, whether family or friends. There is culture for helping one's kin. This mentality can also be to the detriment of others, however’ says Grødeland. ‘In addition, in the field of corruption research, there is an ongoing debate about how much of the corruption in post-communist and post-socialist countries can be explained by the fact that these countries are what the researchers refer to as 'transitional societies’.
Focus groups and interviews
The researchers will use different research methods to collect data for this project. They have already established 18 focus groups consisting of ordinary people – including ethnic Albanians in Serbia and Macedonia, and ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.
Representative national opinion polls have been conducted in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, with 1,000 respondents in each country. Polling agencies will also carry out surveys among an additional sample of 200 ethnic Albanians in Serbia, 400 ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and 200 ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. Both Serbs living in Northern Kosovo and in the Serbian enclaves in Southern Kosovo will be interviewed. Here, the researchers are looking for answers to questions about everything from attitudes to laws, regulations and judicial institutions to experiences of corruption and anti-corruption measures. The researchers are also trying to find out whether bribes are offered voluntarily at the giver's own initiative or whether they are something people are forced to give.
The collection of data will conclude with 450 in-depth interviews of politicians, employees of the judiciary and civil servants.
Studying the judicial culture
Several anti-corruption measures have been tried in the Western Balkans in the past 20 years. Foreign players have usually been responsible for these measures. The goal of the researchers in this project is to find answers to why such measures have succeeded or failed.
The project will also study the judicial culture in the Western Balkans, linking it to the anti-corruption work that is being carried out. Because the researchers are studying both 'legal insiders' (civil servants, elected representatives, judges and the police) and 'legal outsiders' (ordinary people), they hope to find more interesting answers. Previous research on corruption has often only looked at one of the two groups.
It is also new that the project includes the question of majority versus minority culture in research on judicial culture, corruption and anti-corruption.
'We are studying both the Serbian minority in Kosovo and the Albanian minorities in Macedonia and Southern Serbia. One of our hypotheses is that these ethnic-religious minorities have to work harder in order for the authorities to give them access to their rights and that they therefore use bribery to a greater extent than the majority population. We wish to test this hypothesis,' explains Grødeland.
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