Why are most unions corrupt
With transparency against corruption : "It's not about individual cases, but about structures"
Mr. Bäumer, almost everyone has heard of Transparency International. But what are you actually doing?
Transparency - this is the name of our most important means of combating corruption. We want to shed light on political and economic processes. Especially where it is not certain that fair means will be used. We are not concerned with individual cases, but with the structures that encourage corruption. For example in the auto, finance or pharmaceutical industries, in party financing or lobbying in parliaments.
How big is the German organization?
The German "Chapter", as the country organizations are called, has almost 1,300 members, and we finance ourselves through their contributions, 100 euros per year. There are also cooperative members, these are municipalities or companies, who each pay in around 6,000 euros per year. The honorary board consists of twelve people, and we also have six paid employees.
Is corruption your main topic?
Yes, but we define corruption further than just bribery. In Germany and most highly developed countries, the focus of our work on “institutional corruption” has shifted. Cooperation between politics and large companies often makes individual bribery unnecessary. We therefore take a close look at Diesel-Gate, criminal banking transactions such as Cum-Ex or the pharmaceutical industry. It is about the abuse of entrusted power for private purposes.
You have to explain that in more detail.
Political, social and economic interests clash hard when it comes to the big questions of the future such as climate change, digitization, globalization and social inequality. The actors are politicians, entrepreneurs, but also trade unions and other large organizations. How IG Metall acts at Diesel-Gate, for example, is very unpleasant for a long-time trade unionist like me. Many want to stick to the old for their own benefit, to preserve the existing status. And unfortunately this is often illegal. This also applies in part to arms deals or the exit from coal. Or for the pharmaceutical industry, which wants to bring new drugs onto the market and at the same time tries to collect the committees that are responsible for approval. That is why transparency in lobbying is a key issue for us.
Do you also look to Berlin?
Berlin-Brandenburg is our largest regional group with very active members. Since the beginning of the coalition, we have been pushing for a transparency law to be passed, unfortunately without success so far. Therefore, an initiative for a referendum has now been formed, without the active participation of Transparency. Such a law is promised in the red-red-green coalition agreement, but it is like so often in Berlin: a lot is tattered, not decided correctly, the impetus must come from outside.
The collection of signatures for the referendum has been delayed because the internal administration has not yet submitted a cost estimate. Is that what you want?
If that were the case, I would unfortunately find it typical for Berlin.
There has been a transparency law in Hamburg since 2012. How are the experiences?
The critics who initially opposed it have almost all fallen silent. In Hamburg, the law is now to be expanded, also under pressure from the regional group of Transparency and other organizations there. Political and administrative transparency is of course always a controversial issue. I was a ministerial official for a long time and I know from experience that every government needs protected leeway. Before a problem has matured internally to the point of a cabinet decision, not everything should have to be disclosed in order not to stall internal debates.
The so-called core area of executive action is constitutionally protected, so nobody needs to be afraid of too much transparency.
Let me give you an example from my time as a ministerial advisor in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport. At that time I was responsible for the “Stuttgart 21” train station and asked my employees to put together the arguments of all parties to the construction project, especially those of the proponents of the project. If this paper had become public, the opponents might have accused me: Bäumer allowed himself to be turned around by the majority of supporters. But for my work I had to know all the arguments. Nevertheless, I am in favor of great transparency in government action. What is a done deal must be accessible to everyone.
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