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Public Administration Discussion Meeting Series Continues with Lecture on Clientelism in Central and Eastern Europe

On December 5, HSE’s School of Public Administration held a lecture by Szabolcs Pasztor, Assistant Professor at the National University of Public Service (NUPS) (Budapest, Hungary), entitled ‘Clientelism in Central and Eastern Europe’. The lecture was the tenth event in the School’s Public Administration Discussion Meeting series, which aims to bring international scholars to HSE and increase global cooperation.

‘The series serves two main objectives’, said Dr. Tim Jaekel, Assistant Professor at the HSE School of Public Administration. ‘Exchanging experiences and discussing research findings with international scholars, and sharing knowledge among faculty members about current research within the School of Public Administration.’

Professor Pasztor, who in addition to his role at NUPS also serves as an external lecturer at Corvinus University of Budapest (CUB) and Peter Pazmany Catholic University (PPCU), and is the former editor in charge of the Financial and Economic Review (FER, the Journal of the Central Bank of Hungary), focused on how the period of socialism affected corruption and clientelism in the region. He noted that this period raised the overall level of clientelism in Central and Eastern Europe and that people have become more aware of it.

‘It is very interesting to understand the attitude of the younger generation to clientelism’, he noted, speaking of the extent to which patron-client relations determine so much in contemporary life. ‘After the turn of the new millennium, it has become part of the socialization process of individuals and much time and effort are sacrificed to find a patron who can help with promotion at work or achieve goals that have been set. This attitude is so deep-rooted in Central and Eastern Europe that in a number of cases certain positions are simply unavailable for clients without patrons. I do not say skills and competences are negligible but building clientelistic relationships may be a lifeblood’.

While clientelism and corruption are related in many ways, Professor Pasztor emphasizes the distinction, particularly in Hungary. ‘The mental association of Hungarians in the case of corruption is clear: accepting money or other precious gifts for things to be done. Corruption has a very negative connotation and is not accepted at all’, he said. As for clientelism, he says, ‘everyone accepts it, and building clientelistic relationships is vital for reaching higher positions in some cases’.

To date, Professor Pasztor’s research has focused on the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, specifically the demand side of clientelism, i.e., the behaviour of individuals in getting jobs and obtaining promotions, but he would like to expand his research to help develop a better understanding of the political economy of clientelism in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS, perhaps as part of a joint project with HSE. ‘Any kind of cooperation would be a tremendous asset for both universities’, he said.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service