The traditionally repressive state security services of East-Central Europe have been perceived for generations as the enemy of ordinary citizens. Now they must win widespread public support in order to confront organized crime successfully. Can they achieve that?
The underpaid and overworked state security services of formerly Soviet-dominated East-Central Europe have embarked on a radical internal reform programme to suppress corruption and civil rights abuse within their ranks in order to win the approval of the public. They are facing an uphill task.
The purge of corrupt officers is sweeping the region at an accelerating pace. It will bring enormous relief to the trading partners of these countries who have paid clearly for the tradition of low wages and high bribes inherited from the region's former communist masters.
These countries are bowing to pressure from the West to clean up their security services. Their law enforcement agencies employing mostly poorly trained and equipped staff provide plenty of opportunities for their officers to abuse public power for private gain. Yet they have found themselves in the very centre of their societies' struggle to establish confidence in public administration.
The public is deeply sceptical. The concept of democratic rights in the face of anonymous authority wielded by uniformed officials is still novel in the transition societies of this region.
They have been conditioned by decades of callous corruption at the hands of the security services of the communists, preceded by the brutal administration of the Gestapo during the war and the tradition of paternalistic, bureaucracy under the Austro-Hungarian empire as well as the Tsars of Russia.
The crime fighters of post-communist Europe lack any democratic tradition in the enforcement of the rule of law beyond loyalty …