TI: Czechia lacks political will to fight corruption

Czechia’s score in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) has hardly improved at all over the last eight years. While its position in the 2023 ranking remains the same as the year before, it still scored well below the EU average. I spoke to Marek Chromý, head analyst at Transparency International’s Czech branch, to find out why.

First of all, I'm curious how the CPI is calculated - isn't corruption, by nature, something that usually happens secretly, behind closed doors? How do you get the data from all these different countries in order to be able to calculate it?

“You are right – corruption, in order to be successful, has to remain hidden – thus, it’s impossible to measure it. That’s why Transparency International developed the Corruption Perception Index, as it aims to score and rank countries based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be by experts, academics, journalists, business executives and so on.

Marek Chromý | Photo: Transparency International

“It is a composite index – a combination of 13 surveys and assessments of corruption collected by a variety of reputable international institutions such as the World Bank, Freedom House, and others.”

How did Czechia perform this year in the index compared to previous years?

“The Czech Republic scored 57 points out of 100, which is one point more than last year. In terms of ranking, it remains the same, which is 41st out of 180 countries and territories included in the index.”

How is it doing compared to its neighbours?

“Out of the V4 countries, we have the best score, as both Slovakia and Poland scored 54 points, and Hungary received 42 points – the worst score among EU countries. Austria received 71 points and ranked 20th, and Germany scored 78 points and ranked 9th.

“The average score of EU countries was 64, which is 7 points more than the Czech Republic has – so there is definitely room for improvement.”

Just to be clear – a higher score on the index means less corruption, or rather less perception of corruption?

“Yes, exactly.”

Which areas does Czechia fall down in most when it comes to safeguarding against corruption - or to put it another way, where does it have the most room for improvement?

“As the Czech Republic’s score is far from ideal, there is room for improvement in almost all aspects of corruption within the public sector. But to do this, there has to be strong political will. This can be quite easily embodied in robust and ambitious government anti-corruption strategies. That is something we have been missing in the Czech Republic for a very long time, and it’s the perfect point to start with.”

Why do you think this hasn’t happened yet? I’m surprised that the current coalition government hasn’t done anything about it, to mark them as different from their predecessor.

“That’s a good question for our politicians. We see quite a strong lack of will to do anything about the lack of anti-corruption laws, such as regulation on lobbying. There are also still some quite weak points in terms of conflict of interest.

“The will to patch these holes remains small. I don’t know how the politicians want to tackle this issue in their next election campaign and how they want to explain to the broader public that their proclamations during the last parliamentary elections were just proclamations, without any effective measures behind them.”