Kauko Aromaa with Minna Viuhko, Martti Lehti, Aleksey Taybakov, Petr Klemetshov Pavel Demin and Roman Tumanov
According to Transparency International, the Finnish-Russian border represents one of the sharpest corruption borders in the world (cf. the home page of Transparency Finland). For this reason, research on corruption on the Finnish-Russian border is of particular interest and also of particular importance. There is only fragmentary knowledge concerning this phenomenon, and even this is largely based on hearsay and informal experience. There are, for example, different kinds of beliefs about corruption in commerce between Finland and Russia and in the relationships between the Russian and Finnish authorities, but these beliefs are not based on systematic research on the topic.
This research project was carried out on the initiative of the Finnish Ministry of Justice. Its objective has been to provide the relevant authorities with new and better knowledge regarding corruption on the Finnish-Russian border. The results can also be used as working material at joint seminars and training events. This is expected to facilitate constructive debate between the authorities of both countries, based on more concrete observations than what has been available previously.
The Finnish part of the project was carried out by the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI), in cooperation with the National Research Institute of Legal Policy. The study approached Finnish civil servants and representatives of Finnish enterprises active in Russia, in order to shed light on their observations and experiences of corruption, corruption prevention, and cooperation among authorities on the Finnish-Russian border and in cross-border activities. Furthermore, the study has looked at the experiences of civil servants and of employees of business enterprises about corruption on the border, as well as other problems met in cross-border activity.
Parallel to the Finnish study, a similar study was carried out in Russia (Republic of Karelia) by the Northern Branch of the Russian Legal Academy of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. This study targeted representatives of the Russian authorities and of Russian business enterprises active in Finland, focusing on the same topics as the Finnish part of the project.
The focus of the project is on corruption specifically on the Finnish-Russian border, and in particular on the border between Finland and the Republic of Karelia. Consequently, the study does not seek to grasp the full picture of the phenomenon of corruption in either Finland or Russia. This joint report summarises the central findings of both studies. The full report of the Finnish study is published separately.
Summary and discussion
In the Finnish data, the prevention of corruption was discussed mainly in the interviews with the civil servants. They underscored the importance of moral and ethical issues in anti-corruption work. A good knowledge of corruption-related laws was not seen to be as important as the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This was considered to be an essential characteristic required of the authorities.
Several of the Finnish civil servant respondents admitted that they did not know the law in detail, and knew even less about international conventions on corruption. When discussing definitions, however, they were very close to that of Finnish criminal law.
The Russian civil servants said that they are fully familiar with the Russian legislation concerning corruption. Russia has a national anti-corruption plan and several other laws concerning the topic. They explained that in order for corruption to be prevented, civil servants must be familiar with the normative framework and all the efforts of the authorities regarding corruption.
The majority of the civil servants in both countries said that they had not received any kind of corruption-related training at their workplace. The respondents did nevertheless make suggestions as to how corruption could be prevented. The Finnish civil servants mentioned improved salaries (this in particular with regard to Russia), electronic customs declarations, and transparency and openness for all decision-making. The respondents maintained, however, that it is not enough that the systems are in order, if the authorities do not comply with agreed-upon ethical rules. Morality was seen as a central factor here. Corruption-related training was also seen to be useful.
Overall, the Finnish civil servants commented on these issues on a rather general level. This is understandable because they said that they had no direct experiences with corruption in their own working environment or in Finland, and it was also no acute problem in relationships with their Russian colleagues.
Consequently, they had no direct reason to think about specific corruption prevention methods.
Furthermore, the Russian civil servants made a number of suggestions as to how corruption could be reduced in Russia. Their ideas on prevention measures were not very different from those of their Finnish colleagues, but these were more specific. They were of the opinion that corruption-related training would be useful. Furthermore, they suggested that new staff should be selected carefully, the work of the authorities should be made more transparent, and that the access of the public to the authorities should be improved. They also recommended that complex decisions be subjected to collective decision-making. In their view, the normative basis of their work should be clarified, penalties for corrupt behaviour should be stiff, and persons found guilty of corruption should be disbarred from public service. Finally, they proposed that a special state council should be established with the task of controlling the work of the public administration.
The Russian business respondents also felt that training in the prevention of corruption would be important for them, and suggested that Russia could learn from the Finnish experience in anti-corruption work. They were also in favour of stiffer punishment and more effective law enforcement.