Corruption continues to be a major issue facing all levels of the Albanian society. A recent corruption survey report by the Institute for Development Research & Alternatives (IDRA) reported a 13% increase in the corruption index perception for 2008, compared to last year figures by the same institute.
According to the U.S.A. Ambassador in Albania, John Whithers, the media has condemned corruption in Albania regularly but the same cannot be said of the judicial system.
However, what was the most important part of the speech by Mr. Whithers for me, was not the assessment of corruption or the many stories about it, but the need to understand and correct our response to this phenomena in our society. Here I want to quote a paragraph from his speech:
“Albanians value honesty as much as any people in the world and as much as any people that I know. Albanians hate corruption. They hate the fact that the few who are corrupt spoil it for the many who are not.
And I particularly do not like the implication in that answer which implies that corruption is a symptom of Albanian culture; it is not. Anyone who knows the Albanian people knows that it is a violation of the ethical and moral code that Albanians have.
Albanian culture places honesty and integrity above all else. For Albanians, a promise given is a promise kept. And the principle of Besa, the quintessential Albanian virtue, is a bond that cannot be broken. So, I repeat, anyone who implies that corruption is natural to Albania is wrong; corruption is a violation of what it means to be Albanian.
So, what is to be done?”
And that is my concern as well. Why do Albanians find themselves unable to respond to this cultural, social and most importantly moral illness? Is it a lack of understanding of this phenomenon? I think not. Then is it a lack of knowing how to respond in a way that it is effective? May be “yes” and may be “no”.
I do not purport here to have an answer to the issue nor to understand all of its implications and cultural aspects, however, I agree with Ambassador Whithers and his call for action. Some of the practical things he mentioned include these:
- The political elite of Albania should lead by example.
- Change the immunity law, which protects senior officials in courts, in Parliament and in other offices from prosecution.
- The political leadership of Albania should empower the institutions that seek justice.
- Public responsibility: citizens who see corruption or victims of corruption, protesting it, criticizing it, exposing the incidents of corruption, demanding more of the leadership to do something about corruption.