Transparency International – Moldova: The fight against corruption in light of the COVID-19 crisis and other global threats

The speech of the Executive Director of TI-Moldova, Lilia Carasciuc, at the meeting of WG1 of EaP CSF

June 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic tremendously affected the anti-corruption efforts in Eastern Partnership countries:

Corruption feeds off turmoil and tragedy. As governments respond to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the need to act quickly can often lead to bypassing rules and procedures that were put into place to curb corruption;

In some Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, emergency funds are redirected to businesses affiliated with power holders. Economic recession and its effects on an already impoverished population opened wider the door for populist and corrupt politicians, affecting the democratic governing tools not only in the EaP, but also in EU countries;

Restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic discouraged public protests as a way to defend human rights and oppose the attempts of  governments to deviate from the European path. In authoritarian EaP countries, the turmoil caused by the pandemic is used to intensify the arrests and harass the civic activists;  

Self-isolation during the pandemic and the focus of mass-media mainly on the health care system, created fertile soil for political and financial decision that lacked transparency, hidden transactions, and financial crimes, such as money laundering;

The worsening of access to public information and transparency in the decision-making process impeded the objective monitoring by CSOs and journalistic investigations;

The pandemic seriously affected the activity of law enforcement institutions: many local police offices were put on quarantine, multiple prosecutors were infected by the virus and suspended their investigations, and court hearings were postponed– all the above ensuring continuous impunity for the big corrupts;

To prevent the spread of the virus in the penitentiary system, some detainees were released. Among the first beneficiaries of this relief were people involved in resonant corruption crimes. In some countries, political detainees were the last ones to be considered for early or temporary release;

Although some EaP countries have effective e-procurement systems,  considerable donations came from businesses and country partners, considerable budget money have been reallocated to combat COVID-19, leaving impossible to monitor which part of them did not reach the destination;

Consultations between CSOs and governments, if any, have shrunk to a minimum.

EU and EaP countries should address COVID-19 in a systemic way. Climate changes will intensify pandemics, weather disasters and other force majeure situations around the globe, requiring a restructured approach of EU and EaP to tackle corruption, using new on-line technologies and E-Governance tools as core elements in ensuring transparency and good governance in the long run.

To curve the spread of corruption even further, we require that:

•       EU and EaP power-holding institutions intensify on-line consultations with civil society;

•    Continue and encourage the collaboration between CSOs and mass-media;

•       Further digitize and secure democratic electoral mechanisms, public referenda, as well the decision-making process in all three branches of state power. Transparency and security of information matters now more than ever before;

•       Consolidate and support the newly-created European Public Prosecutor’s Office;

•       Condition any macroeconomic support from the EU with progress in the field of anti-corruption and justice reform;

•       Strengthen the international exchange of information and collaboration in the prevention of money laundering and other financial crimes;

•       Elaborate and adopt the legal framework on the circulation of crypto-currencies, as a measure to consolidate regional financial and banking security;

•       Ensure the transparency of Golden Visa programs, particularly vis-à-vis the current and former power holders from EaP countries;

•       Digitalize and ensure access to information on assets and incomes of high-level decision makers, particularly their assets on the territory of the EU;  

•       Adopt and apply laws similar to the Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the U.S. Government to sanction foreign government officials involved in human rights abuses anywhere in the world;

•       Involve the EU and EaP CSOs in the process of monitoring the implementation of these actions.  

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