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European Forum Alpbach 2007 – Political Dialogues

Alpbach IThe 63rd European Forum Alpbach took place between 16 August and 1 September 2007 under the general topic "Emergence – The Development of New".

This year the Austrian Bureau for Internal Affairs .BIA), under the chairmanship of Martin Kreutner, invited experts and politicians to an in-depth discussion concerning the aspect "Europe’s double standards against a corrupt outside world" within the political dialogues, which took place in the Congress Center of Alpbach on the 29 August 2007.

Franz-Hermann Brüner, Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), used practical examples from the daily experience from fire departments and kindergartens to illustrate the development of the compilation of an international instrument for fighting corruption. When we talk about corruption "we always point our fingers outside and say it’s someone else’s fault.”, says Franz-Herman Brüner, and points out a "childish behaviour” when talking about corruption. He recommended that "we should also look at ourselves” and underlined the promotion of constitutional legality and the principles of "good governance” as an important target of the external and developing politics of the European Union. OLAF’s Director-General pointed out that this has been integrated into diverse cooperation agreements with developing countries and also portrays a component of the normal political dialogue of these partner countries.

The Romanian Minister of Justice, Tudor Chiuariu, confirmed the existence of "double standards”. Today Romania has one of the strictest anti-corruption systems in the world. Minister Chiuariu pointed out that all politicians have to declare their income. If the audience would have had access to the internet during his speech, everyone would have been able to see Minister Chiuariu’s current salary.

Drago Kos, President of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), agreed with Minister Chiuariu that the standards, which were imposed to the new EU-Countries, are higher than in the old ones. On that occasion it is not taken into account that for example Germany as an old member state has a considerably lower level of corruption. The new EU-Member States and all the Candidate Countries have and also still place high expectations in their own development possibilities within the European Union. However, a substantial Anti-Corruption-Policy and the development of practical Anti-Corruption-Models will be necessary.

"Those, who act corruptly, lose their ability to commit themselves to honesty.” Prof. Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff placed this thought in the centre of the economic destroying effects and social consequences of corruption. Whoever commits corruption or is corrupted has a schizophrenic relationship to honesty. They would betray their superiors and the public, but try to express honesty to each other - which they are not always succeeding in doing so. This risk of a new betrayal makes the lives of fraudsters, who cannot commit themselves to honesty, difficult. This principle can even encourage egoistic actors to refrain from corruption and bring their civil rights in accordance with good governance.Austria’s Minister of the Interior Günther Platter recommended, not only to look outside: "Also Austria is not an island of the blessed.” He requested the EU-27 to ratify the UN-Convention for fighting corruption quickly and to implement it consequently. 13 EU-Member States, thereof eight old members, have not done it up to now. With this Convention against Corruption, UNCAC, we would have a highly committed international instrument for fighting corruption. "In order to make our demands credible for the joining Countries, the ratification has to take place as soon as possible.” Furthermore Minister Günther Platter demanded an expansion of the current Anti-Corruption efforts and institutions in Austria. The Ministry of the Interior has been an engine in Austria in the past and will be fond of fulfilling this function also in the future. Last but not least Minister Platter attracted attention with a visionary idea: A "World Penal Code” or a supranational court system should be considered for serious trans-national corruption cases.

According to the Kosovar Minister of Justice, Jonuz Salihaj, local institutes in Kosovo are convinced that an intensified international integration would lead to a lower corruption rate. International factors would influence the occurrence of corruption in a country in two different ways: firstly through economic stimulation, which makes corruptive behaviour appearing unattractive; secondly international standards would penalize and stigmatize corruption. Countries with high international and economic integration levels would be exposed to more normative pressure against corruption. The conclusion is, the more a country is integrated in an international exchange, communication and organization network, the less its corruption level will be. The EU has significantly aided Kosovo for building and strengthening its local capacities in the fight against corruption. Local institutions in Kosovo are also prepared to cooperate with the EU, as soon as its status has been clarified, due to the new "EU-Mission” which will be established in Kosovo within a short time.

The question round with the plenum resulted in a lively and motivated discussion between the interested audience and the speakers. The comments and questions of the present media, and the committed and honest answers from the plenum underlined the topicality, the amplitude and the depth of the "trendy” topic Corruption-Abatement. The 200 participants enjoyed a diverting, interesting discussion with different point of views, which received a generative and positive resonance.

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