Czech Republic Lacks Effective Anti-Corruption Strategy, Says NGO Director

Kopecny told CTK that the Czech Republic is still waiting for a political leader who would take the fight against corruption seriously. Photo credit: Freepik.

Prague, May 1 (CTK) – The Czech Republic lacks a long-term, actively enforced strategy to curb corruption, and politicians are not particularly interested in the effectiveness of anti-corruption legislation, said Ondrej Kopecny, head of the Czech branch of Transparency International (TI CR), in an interview with CTK.

In the Czech Republic, politicians pass laws mainly to enable the drawing of EU funds or meet the requirements of international organisations, said Kopecny, a political scientist by training.

The country is still waiting for a political leader who would take the fight against corruption seriously. So far, it has only seen “a number of false anti-corruption prophets like ex-minister Vit Barta (VV) and ex-PM Andrej Babis (ANO)”, Kopecny said.

TI CR has been monitoring the situation in the Czech Republic for 25 years. It was founded as a civic association five years after the establishment of Transparency International, an international non-profit NGO that began operating in Berlin on 4 May 1993.

Kopecny said politicians like to talk about the fight against corruption during election campaigns, but a “sobering up” period always follows afterwards..

“There is suddenly no time to meet promises to adopt a quality whistleblower protection law, to close loopholes in the conflict of interest law, to ensure the independence of the chief prosecutor, or to pass a law on lobbying. Yet these are not special laws, but quite standard rules that are quite common in developed democracies, which the Czech Republic aspires to be,” Kopecny said.

In addition to missing or poor-quality anti-corruption rules, another noticeable shortcoming of Czech politics is the lack of political integrity. “Czech politicians can talk a good game about political responsibility, but they cannot act on their words,” he noted, mentioning ex-education minister Petr Gazdik (STAN) and current Deputy Mayor of Prague Jiri Pospisil (TOP 09), who “are far from having left all political posts, although they were close to those accused in the Dosimeter case” of vast corruption.

All these factors combined are contributing to the Czech Republic’s stagnation in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which Transparency International publishes annually. The country is currently ranked 41st out of 180 countries assessed, scoring 56 out of 100 points, while the average for EU member states is 64 points, Kopecny said.

He said that in the Czech Republic there is a well-known “1990s” cliche about corruption in the form of envelopes filled with banknotes. “Such behaviour certainly still occurs, but it is not the main problem,” he said, adding that the current form of corruption is much more sophisticated, involving money laundering, the use of tax havens, conflicts of interest in high politics, or the privatisation of public interests.

“In the Czech Republic, we tend to underestimate the impact of this sophisticated type of corruption and therefore do not put enough emphasis on tackling it,” Kopecny said.

TI CR lobbies officials and politicians for improved legislation and other systemic changes, and has representatives on the Government Council for Coordination of the Fight against Corruption.

The group is self-funded, according to Kopecny, and does not automatically receive funds for its activities from TI’s Berlin headquarters. TI CR does not accept funding from political parties or movements, but receives money from non-profit grants and competitive subsidy programs. It also has hundreds of individual public supporters and dozens of corporate donors, and covers part of its costs through paid consultancy for the public and private sectors on whistleblowing, conflicts of interest and public procurement. Kopecny told CTK that TI CR’s budget was approximately CZK 16 million in 2022.

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