Policy Forum
: Anti-Corruption, Democratic Resilience and Economic Security


9 November 2023 

Concept Note 

Why it matters 

Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine has intensified geopolitical tensions globally. In the hope of weakening democratic support for the freedom of Ukraine, the Kremlin has particularly targeted existing rule of law deficiencies in the European Union and its immediate neighborhood. In response, the EU has embarked on a number of initiatives to safeguard and strengthen its democratic resilience, including a proposal for its first ever economic security strategy and a major upgrade of its anti-corruption toolbox. These efforts build upon ongoing endeavors for better protecting EU’s financial interests, such as the start of the work of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the establishment of the European Anti-Money Laundering Authority, and the enshrining of the rule of law principles in the Enlargement policy. The EU is working towards an EU global sanctions regime for corruption by expanding and operationalizing its anti-corruption toolkit beyond its rule of law framework. It is also in the process of extending the mandate of the Asset Recovery Offices and the possibilities to confiscate assets based on violation of EU restrictive measures, as well as the establishment of the office of the EU sanctions envoy. 

Southeast Europe has been among the most vulnerable EU neighborhoods, which the Kremlin has specifically targeted in an attempt to exploit state capture networks of influence. The region has been under special EU rule of law and anti-corruption supervision for the past 20 years, providing both grounds for learning and policy innovation and frustration at the slow progress of democratization and European integration. The lessons learned from the past decade underscore that, in order to reignite the region’s reformist momentum, governments and civil societies need to dismantle state capture through evidence- gathering mechanisms, capacity-building, and focusing of judicial efforts on exemplary cases. However, achieving these goals depends on the efficient international cooperation, enforcement of the new legal base, and the development of a civic space to bolster democratic resilience from within. This learning would also benefit the faster integration of the EU’s Black Sea hopefuls, providing important support for Ukraine’s defense of European democracy. 

Why now 

The inability to effectively punish high-level corruption and the challenging task of dismantling intricate networks of state capture has both proven to be a major setback for many member states and candidate countries, and a critical vulnerability in the face of foreign malign influence and economic coercion. The experience from previous enlargements has demonstrated that EU membership does not automatically guarantee a government free of corruption unless dynamically evolving internal rule of law and anti- corruption conditionalities are effectively implemented and supported by continuous policy innovation and capacity building. Russia’s assault on Ukraine is ultimately a challenge to EU’s values- and rules- based model of democratic development. Safeguarding, sustaining and enlarging that model in Europe and beyond depends fundamentally on upholding the rule of law in the EU. 

What’s next 

The event builds upon the policy forum “Anti-Corruption and National Security” held on 21 March 2023 in Sofia, which presented the Summit for Democracy’s year of action achievements of the governments from the region within the global governance context. The forum is part of a series of annual high-level policy events on Southeast Europe, providing a platform for public-private cooperation, exchange of good practices, and affirmation of anti-corruption commitments. In addition to operationalising and implementing the Action Agenda of the Summit for Democracy Cohort on Anti-corruption Policies as a Guarantee for National Security, Stability and Sovereignty, the partners of the R2G4P initiative will also work towards supporting the national and EU level policies foreseen in the Proposal for a Directive on combating corruption, such as mapping of high-risk areas by 2024, strengthening corruption prevention, investigative techniques and sanctions. 

Forum topics 

Building Democratic Resilience through Anti-Corruption Policy and Action 

The session will share good practices and continue the discussion on how the institutional design and policy instruments could be improved, in order to tackle political corruption and state capacity. In particular, France has emerged as a leading country in the fight against corruption and its legislation has become a model for other countries in the world. Since the adoption of the Sapin II Act in 2016, France has made important progress in the fight against corruption by imposing an obligation to implement corporate compliance programs, creating an independent anti-corruption agency, and adopting a new legal mechanism comparable to the deferred prosecution agreement used by the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other corporate criminal cases. 

Anti-Corruption Policy Implementation: New Instruments for Engagement and Impact 

Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) is a diagnostic tool used by public bodies to identify and prevent the most prevalent and damaging corruption and conflict of interest schemes at institutional, sectoral and local levels. The current session will explore how the existing CRA could be upgraded into a systematic, structured and continuous process. Special attention will be paid to the public bodies’ vulnerable activities, such as the information security, asset management, collection of taxes, administrative charges, public procurement, payments, and issuing of licenses. 

Countering Strategic Corruption and Advancing Economic Security in Europe 

In order to more efficiently prove and punish corruption-related crimes, the EU aims to introduce enhanced financial investigation techniques, anti-money laundering practices (including the 6th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive), and mechanisms for investment screening. However, the global effort to stop illicit financial flows (IFFs), freeze and seize assets belonging to sanctioned actors has been hampered by the lack of political will, capacity and procedures (e.g. for disclosure of ultimate beneficial ownership). An additional hurdle presents the “proficiency” of accountants, attorneys, real estate agents and investment advisers who facilitate illicit transactions and hide the ill-gained wealth. The session will explore the good practices, as well as the governance gaps that prevent the efficient sanctioning of nationals and foreigners for corruption, illicit enrichment, money laundering and organized crime. The panelists will also exchange views on how to re-energize the EU’s enlargement debate, and push for faster reforms int he candidate countries. 

Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships against Corruption 

Effective anti-corruption, evidence-based design of counter-measures, as well as the adoption of relevant strategies, plans and legislation, demands ongoing support by the civil society, international organizations, investigative journalists, academia and the private sector. This session will present good practices and challenges related to the establishment of efficient cooperation between government agencies and the civil society. The EU has time and again proven more resilient than perceived, largely due to the agility of its private and civil society sectors. Finding a way to continuously invigorate and sustain this democratic accountability model and employ it in developing innovative anti-corruption tools is critical to overcoming the ongoing state capture and authoritarian threat. 

About CSD 

Founded in late 1989, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) is a public policy institute fostering the reform process in Europe through impact on policy and civil society. CSD’s mission is “building bridges between scholars and policy-makers” and as an independent, interdisciplinary think tank it combines a broad range of capacities. Building bridges is the old-fashioned way of bringing together social actors and cementing new alliances. Born as a think-tank, the Center for the Study of Democracy has evolved into policy development through dialogue and partnership.  


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