9-10th of December 2020
A time of grand corruption?

We invite you to a 2-day conference about corruption and the rule of law during pandemic.

  • korupcja

This conference was organised in connection with International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, established by the UN General Assembly in 2003. Yet the organisers’ main motive was the desire to start a discussion on corruption in the context of two massive crises that go beyond individual countries’ borders: the rule-of-law crisis and the pandemic crisis.

In the first case, we see – for example, in countries such as Poland and Hungary – that the erosion of the traditional, liberal pillars of democracy and the rule of law creates a foundation for grand corruption, concentrated in the top echelons of power and posing a threat not only to public resources, but also to fundamental human and civil rights.Like any natural crisis, for many governments, politicians and officials, the COVID-19 pandemic offers the perfect opportunity to abuse power. Focused on combating the virus, states and citizens pay less attention to decision-makers’ actions. At the same time, though, the scale of this pandemic, as in the case of the rule-of-law crisis, means that some politicians are trying to use these circumstances to strengthen their power and justify actions that are anti-democratic and conducive to corruption by appealing to higher necessity and a desire to protect citizens from the virus. Yet the pandemic could also lead to corrupt regimes – not trusted enough by citizens – collapsing.

Paradoxically, the health crisis could turn out to be a remedy for corruption and the erosion of the rule of law. During two sessions dedicated to corruption, referring to the pandemic and the rule of law, we discussed our current reality, the lessons that will help us avoid similar turmoil in the future, and how we can overcome the challenges that we face today.

See the agenda and panelists bios below.

Conference materials:



Session I – 9. 12, 11.00-13.00 CET
Corruption and the rule-of-law crisis

In this part, we will discuss the link between the rule-of-law crisis – based on the contestation of liberal values – that has been deepening in Poland and other EU countries (especially in Central and Eastern Europe) in recent years and corruption. Are non-liberal (or illiberal) governments the source of the rule-of-law crisis and corruption? Or, conversely, is liberal governments’ corruption the cause of corruption and the decay of the rule of law? Observing events in, for instance, Poland or Hungary, can we say that corruption is taking new forms? What are the characteristics of “non-liberal” corruption? How should we react to this kind of corruption – with mass protests (like in Romania or Bulgaria), by mobilising international organisations (as the EU is trying to do by linking cohesion funds to the rule of law) or in other ways?

Moderator: Aleksandra Karasińska, Newsweek.pl

  • Professor Krisztina Arató, ELTE University, Hungary
  • David Ondráčka, Transparency International, Czechia
  • Ionuţ Sibian, Civil Society Development Foundation, Romania
  • Professor Grzegorz Makowski, ideasForum, Stefan Batory Foundation

See Panelists bios


Session II – 10. 12, 12.00-14.00 CET
Corruption during the COVID-19 pandemic

Every crisis increases the risk of corruption. However, COVID-19 could be a turning point, opening the way to reform, especially in countries ruled by authoritarian, corrupt governments before the pandemic. Will the pandemic help bring down non-liberal regimes? Or, conversely, will it strengthen them, deepening the rule-of-law crisis and increasing the threat of corruption? What is the nature of corruption during the pandemic, with the health crisis superimposed on the rule-of-law crisis? What has the pandemic taught us when it comes to the risk of corruption and the ability to counter it? Will we be wiser after the pandemic when it comes to handling health threats, but also to countering corruption while governments are declaring a state of emergency and under this guise, they create corruption-generating mechanisms.

Moderation: Grzegorz Makowski

  • Professor Nikos Passas, Northeastern University
  • Professor Alina Mugiu-Pippidi, Hertie School of Governance
  • Dr Marcin Walecki, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University
  • Professor Janine Wedel, George Mason University

See Panelists bios