Last week’s sentence of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader (2003-2009) shows progress in the Croatian judiciary. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for taking bribes from two foreign companies. As the first jail sentence for corruption of a head of state or government in that part of the world, the case could potentially have a positive spillover effect on the other countries of Southeast Europe.
The sentence is still subject to appeal, but it speaks volumes about the forms and intensity of corruption in Croatia and maybe other countries of the region in the last 20 years. Very often, there has been no clear difference between organized crime and political elites. They worked together, hand in hand, systematically destroying the very idea of the rule of law. Moreover, sometimes the laws would enable political leaders and their supporters to acquire huge material wealth in the countries torn by wars and plagued by chauvinisms of all kinds.
Prime Minister Sanader has been sentenced to jail for what prosecutors called war profiteering while he was primer minister, accumulating his wealth on the unfortunate destiny of an impoverished nation that had yet to internalize modern democratic principles in its public life. Sanader insists he’s innocent and that the trial was politically motivated.
Global Integrity strongly supports fighting against corruption in any and every form. In this regard, we hope that this sentence will send a strong message that corruption does not pay off – in Croatia or elsewhere.
In addition to the obvious fact that some get rich whereas the others get poor, widespread corruption destroys the core of society. Instead of quality, knowledge and hard work, cronyism and nepotism become socially acceptable norms of behavior. The societies in Southeast Europe have too long been exposed to this and it is our hope that this case shows that Croatia is moving in the right direction.
-- Marko Tomicic