Facebook Live Chat with Ambassador Delawie and Youth Council, Anti-Corruption Week 2016, December 9, 2016
Youth Council: Hello Facebook friends. Today is International Anti-Corruption Week here in Kosovo, a week full of activities. One of the activities is this, the interview with Ambassador Delawie, and we’ve got some questions from the Facebook audience and will be answering them. So, if you are ready Ambassador, we will go to the first one.
As Kosovo marks the Anti-Corruption Week, can your briefly emphasize from your perspective what has been done so far in order to decrease the degree of corruption in Kosovo?
Ambassador Delawie: From our perspective, here at the Embassy, I think we’ve had a good year so far. We have raised awareness, a lot, about the problem of corruption. We have supported projects that make corruption less likely to happen, for example electronic procurement, and we are supporting prosecutors, judges and police on how to deal, investigate and prosecute corruption cases. Finally, we have taken a stand where I am refusing to meet officials that are indicted or convicted for corruption. I think we’ve made some progress, this particular week has been terrific because there have been so many events organized across Pristina, across Kosovo. I was talking on the radio a little while ago with a couple of reporters in Peja to comment on what they have been doing. So it is terrific, and of course it is not just us. Non-governmental organizations, civil society, journalists like yourselves, other Embassies- there is so much going on this week, so I think it has been a terrific week.
Youth Council: Mr. Ambassador, we can say that Kosovo has its legal framework, upon which its judicial system can act freely and take actions to prevent and sentence corruption, but does this system have the courage to do so? Because so far we had some corruption affairs and no action has been taken for these cases.
Ambassador Delawie: I think your question really raises an important point, and it is the distinction between laws and implementation. Now in general, I think the laws are pretty good in Kosovo and in fact over the summer Albania was going through a judicial reform and it learned a lot from Kosovo’s laws. So I think the laws are in a pretty good place, and the key thing for Kosovo to work on is implementation. My Embassy, and others of course, work a lot with the judiciary, with the prosecutors, with the police to help them, to train them so they are better able to deal with these cases, because some of them are complicated and the evidence isn’t always what you really want. Training helps a lot. Also, everyone has to be courageous in fighting corruption. Everyone has got to own this issue. I think that’s very important. Not just the government officials that are charged with it, but the everyday citizen.
Youth Council: Now we’ve got a question from our Facebook audience and one of them asks: do you think Kosovo needs justice reform, one that doesn’t provide space for judges, prosecutors and others involved to act as they please, but actually a reform that holds them responsible for their unprofessional and unfinished work?
Ambassador Delawie: I don’t think Kosovo needs a reform for vetting judges, because that has already happened; however, clearly there are some changes that need to happen: unprofessional actions and inefficiency in the justice system need to be dealt with, performance evaluations have to be real and based on what people actually do and then finally, the disciplinary system for judges and prosecutors needs to be reformed so that accusations of misconduct are dealt with fairly and transparently.
Youth Council: Mr. Ambassador, how can our government increase the effort to fight and prevent the corruption?
Ambassador Delawie: The three most important things in corruption from my standpoint are: making corruption harder to happen, dealing with corruption when it occurs and citizens taking action that is within their control. As far as making corruption harder to happen, it is important to have full transparency in government decision-making, especially regarding money and procurement. This is budgets, political party financing, procurements, and we have been supporting along with some other donors an electronic procurement system that will provide additional transparency to the public and journalists about what the government is actually buying. That’s in progress. But we are very hopeful it will have an impact on corruption. Second element is dealing with corruption when it happens. Corruption happens in every country of the world, including mine. If we could wave a magic wand and get rid of it we would, but you know as long as there are people involved, some of them are going to be corrupt. It is important that police, prosecutors and judges deal with these as the important issue they are because corruption undermines public trust, it undermines faith in government. So even some small scale things need to be dealt with as an example to other officials. Prosecutors, police, judges need to investigate these cases thoroughly, to develop evidence, to secure convictions if the evidence supports it and that will establish a positive trend. The third thing is that citizens need to refuse to participate in corruption. They should not pay bribes for their medical appointments, for grades for their children’s school and they should report corruption to the corruption hotline when they see it.
Youth Council: Like you said, Kosovo is not alone when it comes to corruption, but how important is it for Kosovo to prevent corruption in our education system?
Ambassador Delawie: That’s a really important issue. I hear very sad stories about parents paying for grades for their students at school, university students paying for grades and things like that. It is just heartbreaking because that means young people are already being trained in a corruption system at an early age, when they really should be trained in how to succeed in the modern world. So academic integrity is a big deal, it’s very important, I know it’s a challenge. But, you know, you have to think- would you want to go to a doctor that only passed physiology in university because of paying a bribe to a professor? This has a giant impact and it’s big in every field. I think it is an extremely important issue, I know that there have been some efforts in the universities in the last couple of years and we certainly support them.
Youth Council: This is a question from Facebook. What would you say to people who claim the Embassy is supporting corruption in Kosovo?
Ambassador Delawie: First of all, I would say that is false. In addition, I would say that I’ve been here a year and third so far and not a single week has gone by when I have not done something publicly or privately to help the fight against corruption in Kosovo. I’ve got five events today! Not a week goes by that I don’t do something. I certainly hope that I demonstrate through our conversation here that fighting corruption is something that I see as extremely important for Kosovo’s future and something that my government is extremely committed to. I understand that people want to see faster action, I want to see faster action too. I think we have made a lot of progress in the last couple of years, we have certainly raised the awareness, we have raised attention to the issue. It’s just something that we have to keep working on day in and day out forever. As I said, we have corruption in my country and people get prosecuted every single year for corruption.
Youth Council: And that is a long process.
Ambassador Delawie: If I had the magic wand, I’d use it, believe me.
Youth Council: We had a long week with activities, anti-corruption activities, and the youth were involved of course. But do you have any suggestions for the youth of Kosovo, I mean a message for the youth of Kosovo, so that if in any instance they face corruption, and hesitate to report it, what would you say to them?
Ambassador Delawie: I think we have seen, looking around the world, that corruption only really starts to go down when regular citizens stop tolerating it. I think it is important to report corruption to the corruption hotline, to a medical association, to a university corruption official when you see it. But I also think it is very important that young people, students, not participate in corruption, they turn away from corruption. When they are asked to pay a bribe, they say no and make a big deal out of it, because all the police, all the prosecutors, all the new systems are not going to be sufficient if the people don’t make a fuss about this issue.
Youth Council: And what if they are scared to prevent corruption?
Ambassador Delawie: I understand that is a problem in some cases, I’m certainly not asking anyone to put himself at personal risk to deal with this issue, but I would certainly not want people to think that they are alone. They are not the only person in this situation. There are other people that are resisting corruption, that are like-minded. They should talk with their colleagues who they think are sympathetic and maybe they will be safer in numbers than they would be reporting corruption as an individual.
Youth Council: You said that corruption is a problem in America also. Is there a cultural element to corruption that makes it hard to fight corruption in Kosovo?
Ambassador Delawie: I’m not sure I’d attribute it to culture. Let’s keep in mind that Kosovo has only been an independent state for eight years and it descended from the Yugoslav system that had its own corruption problems that were based on socialism and communism. That doesn’t sound like culture to me, it sounds more like history. Corruption is a problem everywhere and I think what is important to do is to look at what’s happened in other countries and what can you learn because there is a saying, “it is important to learn from your mistakes.” I believe that entirely, but I think it is more important to learn from other people’s mistakes. Other countries have tried to deal with this, some more successfully, some less successfully and the things that we are trying to do here, that my Embassy is supporting here, are mostly based on what has worked in other countries.
Youth Council: We’ve got another question from our Facebook audience. Some people in Kosovo are perceived to be corrupt. Why don’t you talk about people specifically who you think are corrupt?
Ambassador Delawie: That’s a pretty straightforward answer- as a government official, a foreign government official, I can’t go around calling people out who have not been convicted of a crime. I’m not a judge, I’m not a police officer, I’m not a prosecutor. If I started naming people by name as corrupt, not only would I would justifiably be criticized as interfering in Kosovo’s rule of law system, that would also make it more difficult for prosecutors to achieve a conviction of that individual. That’s pretty straightforward. What we do is support the system, we support judges, we support police, we support prosecutors, we do a lot of training. And as I said earlier, we refuse to meet with officials who have been indicted for abuse of office or corruption. But, notice, that’s a decision that someone else makes, the prosecutors decide who is going to be indicted, so it’s not me making that decision that someone is indicted. I decide I’m not going to meet with him when he is indicted, but it is not me making the decision. There is a line as a foreign government official that I just can’t cross and if I start naming people here who are not convicted, that wouldn’t make the situation better. In fact, it would make it worse.
Youth Council: Mr. Ambassador, what should be the outcome of this Anti-Corruption Week? What should happen going forward?
Ambassador Delawie: I think there have been a lot of really good activities this week. But I think it is important to transition from the talking that we have all been doing- talking is very important- but we have to move to action. We have to encourage officials who are in the rule of law system to do their jobs as effectively and efficiently as possible, to apply the law equally to everybody. Equality before the law is a fundamental democratic principle, so everybody has to be treated the same no matter what is their rank or station in life when it comes to the rule of law. So we have to encourage officials to do that, and we have to as citizens say: “enough is enough, I’m not just going to not participate in this anymore, I’m going to call it out when I see it.” We are making progress, we have got to keep making progress. My friend, the OSCE Head Ambassador Jan Braathu, said at a conference earlier today, “it is great we are having anti-corruption day, but really every day needs to be anti-corruption day” and I think that is true.
Youth Council: It is indeed. Thank you so much Ambassador.
Ambassador Delawie: Thank you Linda, thank you Kristina.
Youth Council: So, I hope that Mr. Ambassador answered some of your questions in this time, and remember how he said that every day needs to be the fight against corruption day.