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How do we start the process of state de-capture? 

October 12, 2023 by BSC0


The panel “State Capture in the Western Balkans and the World” aimed to answer the question of how to start the process of state de-capturing. It was moderated by Ivor Chipkin, Director of New South Institute. 


Jelena Pejić Nikić, Senior Researcher, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, touched on the meaning of the concept “state capture”, explaining that what differentiates it from autocracy is the “façade of democracy”.  She explained that in state capture, institutions not only fail to do their job but they are used to shut down dissenting views. Furthermore, special attention is given to building a false positive image of a democratic and stable society. Pejić Nikić warned about concerning concentrations of power in Serbia since the regime change in 2012.  



Nikola Dimitrov, President of the Balkan Center for Constructive Policies – Solucija, described the term “state capture” as the situation in which public institutions do not serve the interest of the citizens, but the interests of the party, and, eventually, private interests. Furthermore, he adds that the term “captured state” was used for the first time for describing North Macedonia, when the external report recognised that multiple levels of state administration were subordinate to a political party interest. 



Legal Expert Reinhard Priebe said that state capture was a process and that the initial points of that process needed to be identified. He noted that capture usually starts in the judiciary, security institutions, and oversight institutions. When it comes to a solution for de-capturing the state, Priebe said that it usually is not possible “from the inside” and highlighted the importance of the civil society, as a carrier of reforms.  



Lenche Ristoska, Liaison Prosecutor for the Republic of North Macedonia at Eurojust, reminded us that the terms corruption and state capture should be distinguished. She added that a state could be captured by political elites, but also by economic elites if they were above the political ones.  She gave the example of state capture by shedding light on the wiretapping scandal of 2015, in North Macedonia, which involved numerous obstructions of justice and evidence tampering. She defined two levels of state capture, the first being the decision-making level, and the second being the justice system as a whole. 



The moderator proposed the question of how to resist state capture, giving the example of South Africa and its civil rights movement. Nikola Dimitrov called upon forming “islands for resistance” -investigative journalism, ombudsman’s office, etc. Jelena Pejić Nikić explained that mobilising citizens could be an effective way to counter state capture. 



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