Southeast Europe Struggles with Effective Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies are considered key agents in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. For that reason, massive resources from the international community have been channeled to democratizing and professionalizing police institutions in Southeast Europe.

However, although legal reforms of the police force have been fairly successful in the four Southeast European countries covered in the 2011 Global Integrity ReportBosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia –, the implementation and enforcement of these laws are found wanting in our latest assessment.

For instance, while in all these countries there is an agency with a legal mandate to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption among law enforcement officials, its effectiveness is weak. The number of investigations in Bosnia remains low, and those that are pursued focus on relatively minor cases while cases involving high-level corruption and politically powerful individuals are dropped or end in acquittals. The situation is similar in Macedonia.

Law enforcement agencies in the region also tend to be politicized. Recruitment and appointment of law enforcement personnel in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia are susceptible to nepotism, patronage, and political interference. As our lead researcher notes of Bosnia, for example, “the prime minister […], the director of the key law enforcement agency, [and] the state investigation and protection agency [were] appointed as a result of an agreement among political leaders.” And while a new law may introduce a merit-based police force in Macedonia, “for the present […] it seems that party-based recruitment is the norm.”

It is evident, therefore, that the implementation gap between the laws “on the books” and their actual implementation/enforcement needs to be addressed in order to bolster the integrity system of law enforcement in Southeast Europe. The latest Global Integrity Report covering the region provides useful entry points for reformers. 

— Raymond June

— Image Credit: Jonathan Davis

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