In the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a rising tide of global hybrid threats has sharpened Europe’s focus on combating corruption and state capture as risks to national security. Despite some initial signs of progress across the continent, however, many networks of state capture remain firmly entrenched, and there is no magic vaccine to the pandemic of corruption. Finding a cure will require a high degree of innovation and coordination from a wide array of international partners both in the public and private sectors. The subversive actors seeking to leverage corruption across Europe to their benefit are willing to weaponize anything and everything, extending their reach across all major industries, and in the face of this threat, many European governments have been caught sleepwalking through their responses.
After providing a platform for representatives from government, civil society, and academia to discuss these issues at our 21 March Anti-Corruption and National Security conference, the Center for the Study of Democracy invited several key panelists from this event to further expand upon their perspectives and continue the conversation at a roundtable on the morning of 22 March 2023. After introductory remarks by CSD Chairman Dr. Ognian Shentov and Dessislava Taliokova, Executive Director for the America for Bulgaria Foundation, Ruslan Stefanov, Director of CSD’s Economic Program, moderated a conversation on combating corruption as a core national security interest and the current state of anti-corruption policies and instruments in Europe. Participating in this discussion were Shanthi Kalathil, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights at the U.S. National Security Council, Paul Massaro, Senior Policy Advisor for Counter-Corruption and Sanctions at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, His Excellency Raymund Furrer, Ambassador of Switzerland to Bulgaria, and Kostantsa Rangelova, Senior Analyst in the Energy and Climate Program at CSD.
Participants in the roundtable reflected positively on the wave of new attention that anti-corruption efforts have received in recent years, both in Washington and in Brussels, but noted several key sticking points and areas for further reform on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, participants noted the challenges inherent in enforcement of anti-corruption, with bold and creative new solutions needed to end the trend of law enforcement agencies simply ‘playing catch-up’ to agents of corruption and state capture. Moving forward, they concluded that new countermeasures aimed at rooting out corruption must focus on identifying networks of facilitators and enablers, and more effectively equip and mobilize civil society organizations to fill in roles that governments cannot.