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Euromaidan Press
18 Nov 2023
Maria Tril

Changing minds key to beating corruption, sociology professor says

Corruption exists in the EU as well. However, anti-corruption tools implemented across the EU have varying effectiveness between member states, a lecturer of European studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and a sociologist, said.
Photo: European Union

Corruption exists in the EU as well. However, anti-corruption tools implemented across the EU have varying effectiveness between member states, sociologist Angelos Giannakopoulos says,

According to Giannakopoulos, Lecturer in German and European Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and professor of Sociology at the University of Dortmund, corruption also exists within the EU but manifests differently across member states.

When asked whether separate anti-corruption tools should be implemented in the EU and member states, Giannakopoulos argued that while initiatives have been launched in member countries, their effectiveness varies.

“Anti-corruption institutions have been set up in member countries, but they function differently in different countries. The problem is that anti-corruption campaigns cannot work uniformly across all countries,”  Giannakopoulos said.

He emphasized the importance of grassroots engagement in Ukrainian civil society to combat corruption by changing mindsets and culture.

“Ukraine can create various tools to beat corruption, but it’s a matter of the culture of the people, their history, and how people understand this phenomenon.”

Angelos Giannakopoulos also added that corruption “doesn’t only exist in countries with weak economies. In developed countries, the level of corruption is at higher levels. In less developed countries – it’s widely spread on the street.”

“Ukrainian civil society needs to get involved, people need to understand why it’s a problem. Start with Ukrainians, then start with the institutions,” he added.

About 63% of Ukrainians listed corruption as one of the top issues the country facing besides the ongoing war, according to a poll released by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) on 1 November.

The poll found that the issues of personal well-being (such as pensions/salaries, unemployment or tariffs) concern the Ukrainian population less than injustice due to corruption.

Over half of Ukrainians surveyed, 54%, said the main responsibility for fighting corruption lies with the new anti-corruption bodies established after 2014. A significant number, 43%, also pointed to the president and presidential administration as key players.

While new institutions like the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) are seen as central to tackling the problem, their effectiveness remains in doubt. According to a separate poll, only 31% of citizens expressed trust in NABU.

“In any case, the public expects active actions of the authorities at various levels to overcome corruption,” KIIS concluded.

Why the issue of corruption is on the agenda in Ukraine 

On 8 November, EU officials recommended that Ukraine be invited to begin membership talks, which takes Kyiv a step closer to its major strategic goal even amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

The recommendation for negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU means that Ukraine is coping with its seven tasks set by the commission for Ukraine, Mykola Hnatiuk, Coordinator of the Master’s Program in European Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, said.

A list of seven conditions that Kyiv had to fulfill in order to confirm its new status was set in the summer of 2022 when the European Commission and later the European Council decided that Ukraine officially became an EU candidate. In particular, they include:

  1. Reform of the Constitutional Court
  2. Continuation of the judicial reform
  3. Further anti-corruption reform, including the appointment of a new NABU Director
  4. Anti-money laundering legislation
  5. Implementation of the anti-oligarchic law
  6. Media law that aligns with the EU audio-visual media services directive
  7. Finalization of the national minorities reform, currently under preparation

Ukraine’s ex-ambassador to the EU, Vasyl Chentsov, said previously that there have been specific achievements, such as the successful appointment of key officials.

“This applies to the leadership of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and the launch of the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges. That is, since these recommendations were presented to Ukraine, the relevant processes have been significantly accelerated,”  Chentsov explained.

Serhiy Gerasymchuk, a Director at Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism, said at the third Ukrainian Central European Forum 2023 that “the acceleration of reform efforts on fighting corruption, media freedom, and legislation for national minority communities was clearly a Ukrainian reaction to EU proposals, promises, and pressure. The more the EU pressed, the faster the Ukrainian authorities acted.” 

On 14-15 December, the EU leaders’ summit may decide to start formal membership negotiations with Ukraine. On 2 November, German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock expressed confidence that the EU would make such a decision.

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