Over half of Albanians said they have been asked for a bribe, while half of those admitted they have given it, the highest rates in the region according to a new report on corruption by the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integration.

According to the report, Albania has the highest pressure and involvement in corruption in the Western Balkans for all indicators, such as seeking bribes, giving them, acceptability of corruption, falling prey to it and even state capture by businesses.

“Albania appears to be the country most affected by the highest administrative corruption in the region with 57% of citizens being asked for bribes at least occasionally and 47% actually participating in corruption transactions,” the report states.

Serbia remains the country with the lowest level of corruption pressure in the region, while Kosovo has the lowest level of actual involvement in corruption activities, with 20% of citizens having paid bribes compared to 23% in Serbia.

According to the report, direct involvement in corruption transactions is associated with attitudes towards corruption and corrupt behaviours and the perception that corruption is widespread in society. Another indicator, that of the acceptability of corruption, reflects the citizens’ belief that some corrupt practices by public officials are normal and can be tolerated.

In 2021, acceptance is highest in Albania (40%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (38%) and North Macedonia (37%), but also the lowest results (Kosovo – 25% and Montenegro – 27% ) remain quite high.

However, the steady decline in acceptability in all countries except BiH and Montenegro since 2016 indicates increasing resilience to corruption among citizens, the report points out.

The pressure indicator for state capture by businesses, which focuses on the pressure of monopolisation at the national, sectoral or institutional level, sees Albania score 45%, the highest in the region, together with Bosnia and Herzegovina. As for enablers of state capture, which include institutional and environmental factors at the national level, reach 50%, almost twice as high as Kosovo in second place.

Previously, EC progress reports for countries in the region stated that they had found “clear elements of state capture”, while in recent publications, the phenomenon is mentioned in passing which may be a reflection of geopolitical priorities for accelerated expansion in the face of threats from Russia and China.