No Cure for Corruption

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Corruption breeds unchecked in Romania’s hospitals, where doctors are bribing each other for jobs. The cost, however, is being passed on to the patients. Report by Elena Stancu. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and The Independent.

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How to Get Ahead in Romanian Politics

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Romania’s EU-backed anti-corruption agency is a rare success story – upright and efficient. But the politicians it has targeted refuse to go away. They have been humiliated in courtrooms, only to be resurrected at the ballot box. Report by Vlad Odobescu. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and New Statesman.

Another Ten Balkan Tales

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Here are all ten of the stories that I edited in 2013 for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. Our reporters honoured the annual theme of “integrity” by revealing its absence. So, we have some stories about corruption. We have some stories about migration. And we even have some stories about migration-because-of-corruption.

All very Balkan, you might say. But in fact, many of the problems our reporters uncovered can be traced to the heart of Western Europe, or to the unintended consequences of the EU’s policies in the east.

Other themes include the unsettled legacy of war – still very pertinent – and the troubling politicisation of civil society.

  • Macedonians used to pay some of the highest mobile phone bills in Europe – and not just because they like to talk. Goran Rizaov unravels the murky saga of a telecoms deal that has been ignored in his country, despite leading to a massive corruption settlement in the US.

Reporting Europe Prize 2013

The Reporting Europe prize for 2013 has been awarded for a story that I edited about the exploitation of Romanian and Bulgarian labourers in Britain.

Sorana Stanescu, a TV journalist based in Romania, received the award at a ceremony in Westminster, central London, on 13 May.

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Sorana Stanescu (left) and I pose with the prize against the Westminster skyline.

Her story, published by Balkan Insight and the New Statesman, revealed how the UK’s labour restrictions had left migrant workers underpaid and vulnerable to exploitation.

The Reporting Europe prize is organised by UACES, the world’s largest European studies association. Past winners include journalists from the BBC, The Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

Dr Martyn Bond, a jury member and deputy chair of the London press club, described the winning story as “particularly apposite” and “well-written”.

“The whole question of migrant labour in a highly developed economy… is illustrated through this,” he said. “But it doesn’t do it in a preachy didactic manner. It does it through a human story. And that’s the best sort of journalism.”

“It gives us facts behind the fictions… that we hear trotted out daily in the political ding-dong that passes for serious debate here on the immigration issue.”

The ceremony included a short discussion, where Stanescu and I joined the chair of UACES, Helen Drake, to talk about the background to the story and its impact.

The report was produced for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

Better a Polish Plumber than a Romanian Builder

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An investigation into how British restrictions on EU workers have created a supply of underpaid and unprotected manpower for the construction sector. The UK government insists that its rules are meant to stem the tide of migrants. Report by Sorana Stanescu. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and the New Statesman.

Ten Balkan Tales

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Here are all ten of the stories I edited in 2012 for the Balkan Fellowship of Journalistic Excellence, an annual award for investigative and long-form reporting. The stories were published by Balkan Insight, as well as in the international and regional press.

  • Top prize-winner Sorana Stanescu reveals how British immigration laws – a door left half open – have led to the exploitation of Romanian and Bulgarian builders.
  • Second prize-winner Saska Cvetkovska investigates why so many Macedonian youngsters are locked out of a deeply politicised job market.
  • Third prize-winner Aleksandra Bogdani examines why the former prisoners of Albania’s gulags have yet to be compensated for their suffering.
  • Aleksandar Manasiev reveals how violent football hooligans keep ethnically divided Macedonia on edge.
  • Arbana Xharra examines how Muslim hardliners are sowing conservatism among Kosovo’s poor, sparking resentment in a traditionally secular society.
  • Ana Benacic’s investigation into the collapse of a Croatian farm shows how bad privatisation is a modern version of the Biblical plague of locusts, stripping the land of its wealth.
  • Dimiter Kenarov asks if poverty and murky politics in Bulgaria can stop the seemingly unstoppable rise of the environmental movement.
  • Eldin Hadzovic asks why the dysfunctional state in Bosnia seems to care least for its most vulnerable citizens – the thousands of children abandoned by their families.
  • Samir Kajosevic travels among ethnic Albanian minorities in Montenegro and beyond, discovering some hope amid economic desperation.
  • Miodrag Sovilj asks the activist-squatters of Croatia and Slovenia how they fought the state and won, while their counterparts in Serbia failed.

‘Pssst! Wanna buy EU citizenship?’

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Investigation into the racket in Romanian passports for fake applicants. Report by Adrian Mogos and Vitalie Calugareanu. My edit for Balkan Insight.