Imagine you are the leader of a corrupt political elite in a Western Balkan country, writes the author of this paper in a compelling call to the EU to take note of political realities in this region. You are pressured to fight “widespread corruption in all areas”, but you cannot afford to lose control of the power you have acquired over the years. How do you navigate away from all that pressure? Here is a guide that will help buy you some time… decades literally.
This CEPS Policy Insight takes a lively rhetorical approach to showing how state capture in the Western Balkans has been ignored since the launch of the region’s EU accession process, despite the many examples highlighted by civil society and independent media. It argues that while the EU first acknowledged the clear signs of state capture in an official document in 2016, Western Balkan political elites had already built powerful networks of corrupt interests around them. Not only that, they had already reached the highest point of state capture – tailor-made laws.