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Plenary Speech – Accountability of Political Leaders Milos Zeman

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10th IACC – Prague, 2001

Plenary Speech – Accountability of Political Leaders

Milos Zeman:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is not my first anti-corruption conference. Three or four years ago, I visited Trieste in order to participate in a very interesting anti-corruption conference. I still remember two sentences said by Mr. Violante, the former Chair of the Italian Parliament. Let me repeat those two sentences. The first was: "The main tool of economic mafias in their battle against politicians is not to murder them but to corrupt them". And the second one: "The main tool of politicians in their battle against economic mafias is not to put them in jail, but to confiscate their property." I still remember those two sentences and I would like to concentrate on the topic of our panel discussion "The Accountability of Political Leaders" in the very context of those two sentences, as I doubt that a reception, for instance, would be the main tool in the battle against corruption, even though it may indeed be a comfortable one. I am in favor of a strong fight against corruption.

Firstly, what are the necessary conditions, conditio sine qua non, for the accountability of political leaders? Politicans, of course, should be relatively poor both at the start and the end of their careers. There is practically no difference between the start and the end since politicians do not have salaries comparable to those of heads of commercial banks, for example. However, more than that is necessary. We politicians must declare completely and frankly all our property, including the property of our families, we must not to be involved in any form of business, enterprise or firm, in order not to be accused of a conflict of interests. This is a conditio sine qua non, this is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. What then is a sufficient condition for a politician in order to be accountable and successful in the battle against corruption? Either to be murdered, as this would imply that the politician started his battle successfully, or to put many people in jail, of course on the basis of an independent court trial in a democratic system, and to confiscate their property, the property of mafias.

You are well aware that corruption is the single type of crime that has advantages for both sides. This is why in the Czech Republic, as far as I remember, there has been only one case of large corruption that was actually investigated by the police. This suggests that either Czechia is a very good country, or that it is very, very difficult to reveal real corruption. This was why three years ago we launched a campaign called "Clean Hands", a very interesting action indeed. As you know, in Italy, this campaign lasted for more than ten years, in Czechia it has been three years. During the first two or three years, it was necessary to complete the documentation in full, and even to change some people with positions in the police force, of state attorneys, even in the courts. No matter how sad it may sound, even policemen may be corrupted. I am not saying they are corrupted. And what may seem strange, even journalists may be corrupted. Incidentally, there is a strange style of corrupting journalists: Let us create a PR agency and you will pay the journalist through this PR agency, rather than going directly. This is a very good tool for covering corruption.

In my opinion, these are the three necessary conditions for accountability of any political leader, independent of his political affiliation. Firstly, to be relatively poor, not like Mahatma Gandhi, of course; secondly, to stay relatively poor in the course of time; and, thirdly, not to be involved in any business except that of politics. Clearly, politics is a risky business in itself. Either a politician can be murdered, which is black humor of course, or a better solution would be to be successful in this fight. Rather than by words, such success is measured but by the number of people who were investigated for economic crime, who were sent to jail through independent courts, and whose property ended in the hands of the state. Incidentally, this is very good for the state budget, it is something like a side effect.

My friends, I would like to finish with the words of an old song: "Deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome some day." Thank you very much for your attention.

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