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Natalia Roman (University of Bucharest)

DISCOURSE OF CORRUPTION-THE INVISIBLE ENEMY

 

1.      Introduction

2.      Definitions of corruption, examples, causes

3.      International Instruments developed by the European Union against corruption (what can be done)

4.      Conclusions

 

1.      Introduction

In order to fight violence you have to reveal it first. You have to know who are the enemies so you can prepare your battle. But what can you do when the enemies are invisible? What can you do when you are aware about their existence but you can’t see them?

Corruption is a form of violence which affects every area of our lives. A form of violence practiced by the bus driver as well as by the politician. It’s something ubiquitous, contagious and more dangerous than it seems.

The menace of corruption leads to unacceptable queues in hospitals, lost files in offices, unfair lost jobs or elections and so on. This form of violence makes no difference whether you are young or old, a man or a woman, whether you live in a democratic or a dictatorial state.

      Most of the corruption statistics are based on perceptions. Why? Because the number of the discovered corruption cases is certainly far away from the real situation.

     One thing we know for sure: corruption is a menace everywhere. Let’s take for example the situation of Europe[1].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Textfeld:   Who are you, mister?[3]...

2.                       Definitions of Corruption, Examples, Causes

         Corrupt is someone who uses public means with the purpose of private gains[2]. By extension, we could say that a corrupt person is somebody who is ready to sacrifice anything in order to achieve profit. He follows his interest by any price.

        A corrupt person forgets who he is and what he owns towards people around him, towards society. He becomes an indirect source of violence for the others. He gets a short time profit and the others suffer the long term consequences of his acts (they lose jobs, rights, precious time, confidence in themselves or society’s mechanisms).

 

Corruption attacks different cultures. Therefore, there will never be one single definition of corruption accepted by everybody. Once we’ve consoled ourselves with this thought, we can take a look towards the definitions embraced so far.

There is a political corruption (known also as “big corruption”, people who make laws in order to benefit themselves or their friends), a bureaucratic corruption (known as “small corruption”; this is the corruption which exists in schools, hospitals, police etc) and an electoral corruption (buying and selling of the votes, obscure sources of financing for the electoral campaign).

Which are some specific corrupt practices?

            The first to mention here are bribery, fraud, embezzlement, extortion, favoritism, nepotism [4]. Because bribery exists, people use to give or receive money or other goods in order to make or to benefit from a favor. Therefore, everything tends to have a price, even laws and values. Because fraud exists, important sources of money for hospitals, education, public programs disappear. Because embezzlement exists, public money fades away. Let’s not forget that public money is our money. Because extortion exists, physique and psychic violence is practiced and people become its victims, every day. Because favoritism and nepotism exist, people lose, unfairly, jobs they disserve in favor of corrupt person’s friends and family.

 

It’s interesting to see where are the biggest corruption problems in the public opinion [5].

Causes and examples of corruption surprise us every day. How many people do realize how old is corruption? How many people really understand its mechanism?

 

 

 

 

Textfeld:  
I will break every law we ‘ve given you! If the nation is asking for it! [6]

 

 

 

 

         It is interesting to see how some people try to justify their corrupt behaviors. Whether they believe they are entitled to that profit because they were harmed in the past or they believe they do a good thing helping a close friend, they are equally wrong. If somebody did you something wrong nothing entitles you to answer in the same way and one shouldn’t help somebody by hurting the others.

            There is no room for an “if” in this question.

 

 

An incredible example of corruption, very old and famous is Judas case. In return for his service he received 30 silver money. This is the equivalent of 70 Euro nowadays. Therefore, the corruption isn’t expensive. We would be surprised to see for how little people would do the most horrible things.

            Law has the answer to all these problems. However, sometimes, things are not that simple. For example, a law may be very good intentioned but the effects may be unpredictable. I have a good argument for this. I bring into question the Statute of the Lawyer’s Profession in Romania.[7]

            After a student finishes the Law Faculty, in order to become a lawyer, he must enter the Lawyers’ Association. There is a set of rules he must obey in order to be admitted. Most of them are reasonable. However, as the article 59 from the Statute states, the student must bring a prove that he has the support of two other lawyers during his two first years of probation.

            Those two lawyers must have at least ten years experience, they must be able to plead in the High Court of Justice and they can guide no more than two junior lawyers.

            So far, everything seems to be ok. It seems reasonable for a beginner to be guided for a while, until he gets used to this profession. But getting these two recommendations it proved to be an indirect source for a corrupt behavior. In some cases, the senior lawyers took advantage of the fact that they have something a lawyer-to be needs. Besides, a fresh graduated student doesn’t have too many connections between lawyers. Therefore, many lawyers ask money in order to give this support, although they are not entitled.

            This is a very interesting example of how laws can be a source of corruption. We can’t just take some corruption definitions and expect to fit all the situations between those parameters. We should be flexible in order to understand this phenomenon and we should be prepared to discover all kind of new sources and new “treatments”.

 

3.      International Instruments Developed by European Union Against Corruption[8]

-What Can Be Done-

 

            For a long time corruption was seen as something permissible. An important moment in Europe’s history, when something was done to punish the corrupt behavior, was the appearance of Napoleon’s Code, which incriminated some of these practices.

            Very important to observe is that, although the European Union’s history has started long time ago, with the Schuman Plan in 1951, the history of the legal instruments developed against corruption is quiet young. The explication is that, in the beginnings, the interest of European Union was mainly economic.

            It’s very interesting to see how the fight against corruption has started. The first step to combat corruption within European Union was the Convention on the Protection of Financial Interests of the Communities, adopted by the Council on July 26th 1995. The convention deals with criminal liability of heads of business, jurisdiction, extradition, and cooperation. A First Protocol completed this convention in short time, adopted by the Council on September 27th, 1996 and a Second Protocol, was adopted by the Council on June 19th 1997.

            The next important step was the Convention on the Fight against Corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union, adopted by the Council on May 26th 1997. We should observe the fact that the convention doesn’t mention a specific interest for a financial protection. Therefore, the area this convention refers to has got bigger.

            An important year was 1999, when were opened for signature the Criminal Convention Against Corruption (this convention also treats important aspects like private sector corruption and trading in influence) and the Civil Convention Against Corruption (which deals with the reparation of the damages caused by corruption). In 2003 an additional protocol appeared for the Criminal Convention against Corruption.

            I would have spoken more about all these instruments but I’ve realized something very important. This is a theoretical side. Therefore, I became more interested in a practical side of the problem. I became interested in how to answer to an important question like: what can be done?

            First, there are all these conventions. They should be ratified and applied in as many countries as possible.

            Secondly, there is a list of 20 guiding principles in this matter. We should understand them. A very good job does GRECO, The Group of States against Corruption. This organization is responsible for important evaluations and is based on these 20 guiding principles. Between them we have: importance shown for prevention of corruption, not only for measures that can be taken post; protection shown regarding people who are directly involved in solving these corruption problems; the transparency of the public sector; codes of conduct for public officials; importance shown to rules for the financing of political parties; the encouragement of research on corruption; the importance of international cooperation in fighting corruption.

            Third, maybe the most important, is a strong value system. The European Union may develop as many international instruments as it wants, governments may ratify them, but without help from each one of us all these measures are in danger of remaining only at a formal level.

            Just think about it! What can stop a corrupt bus driver? The cure for this social illness comes from an inner self. We have corrupt practices which are huge and can’t be hidden. Nevertheless, a wide part of corrupt practices is formed from small things, small things like paying for not waiting in a line, like slowing a file in an office. There is no punishment to stop small things like that because they can’t be seen. They can be easily hid. We can be easily misled by those persons who practice them. However, there is a solution. There is someone who can stop all these actions. That someone is the corrupt person himself. All he needs to do is understand the harm of this practice and build a strong value system. Sounds easy? Actually is a lifetime work.

 

 

 

Textfeld:  
We want truth and tranquility! Even though, if we would have the truth we wouldn’t have tranquility; and if we would have tranquility we wouldn’t have the truth![9]
            We have seen what corruption means, we’ve seen statistics, we’ve seen examples and we’ve seen solutions.

            Corruption appears to be one of the things all states have in common. We all have in common mathematics, music, games, tears and laughter and unfortunately, violence, corruption.

            Corruption is a misleading form of violence. It’s chameleonic. It has so many shapes and covers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Conclusions

            We could say it’s an incognito form of violence because many people can’t see it. They think it’s permissible. They think it can be justified. They think it can’t be that bad.

            Actually, corruption is a serious attack towards human rights and democracy. It’s like the “horse from Troy”. As if we have a solid fortress and we let it in because we don’t see the danger and over night everything is lost.

“Corruption of the best becomes the worst!” Let’s not forget this old saying, because it shows the power of this form of violence. Another thing we should keep in mind is that “the accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference”. Let’s don’t allow that.

 

Notes:

[1] These statistics are collected from www.transparency.org.

[2] An important bibliographic source for this definition is www.globalcorruptionreport.org.

[3] Source: “Romania libera” Revue, Tuesday, February, 27th 1990, Year XLVIII Nr. 14 090. I’ve chosen to sustain my thoughts with little drawings found in a newspaper from Romania, called “Free Romania”. This numbers appeared right after the 1989 revolution, when people regained their liberty of opinion, when media was starting to point out problems that they were forced to overlook until then.

[4] I’ve basically used the Romanian Criminal Code, Bucharest, 2002, but I’ve also read about all these in international conventions, that I will mention later in this paper.

[5] These statistics are collected from www.transparency.org.

[6] “Romania libera” Revue, Wednesday, February, 14th, 1990, Year XLVIII, Nr. 14079.

[7] The Statute of the Lawyer’s Profession was published in the Romanian Official Monitor number 284, from 31st May, 2001 and it’s still functioning.

[8] An important source was www.europa.eu.int.

[9] “Romania libera” Revue, Friday, June 8th, 1990, Year XLVIII, Number 14173.