The Corruption Perception Index of 2012 signaled out Albania as the most corrupt country in Europe. Transparency International figured Albania was the most corrupt sountry in Europe, after Kosovo, and the 95th most corrupt place among the 176 nations it monitored at the time. The trend was similarly disappointing until 2014, when Albania was pronounced the most corrupt state in Southeastern Europe.
And then something happened. In 2015, the picture is dramatically different. The very same index published on Wednesday, January 27th, suggests Albania has jumped 22 places in a single year and leads the Balkans. Albania of course lags behind most EU member states, except Bulgaria, the worst among the 27 member states.
Albania still fairs worse than Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia; most of these countries have all made substantial gains as well and so Tirana must make strands even to stand still. And it is making strands.
Not everyone is doing better, in the region or in Europe. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was seen sliding on ratings, as did Hungary and Turkey. But, what made a difference in Albania was a campaign, launched in September in 2015.
The key to the improvement of a country’s position in the rankings is the word “perception.” The government went out of its way, for the first time, to find out what people thought.
In February 2015, the government launched an anti-corruption portal allowing citizens to record anonymously unscrupulous practices in 12 key policy areas, including police, health and customs. In March the government used a World Bank program to start asking citizens by SMS. Prime Minister Rama was arguing that perception is often about stereotyping, but then also admitted that one can only break “perceptions” by fighting corruption, the Guardian reported at the time.