Truth, Accountability or Impunity? Transitional Justice and the Economic Crisis

Lead Research Organisation: City University London
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences

Abstract

CONTEXT
The comparative project applies concepts of transitional justice, namely, 'dealing with the past', to investigate how six European societies (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, Iceland) have come to terms with the origins and consequences of the post-2008 financial crisis. The economic aspects of the crash are well discussed elsewhere; the proposed project argues significant political and legal lessons can be learned from the crisis, but these are missed by viewing it only through an economic lens. Simply stated, transitional justice, a framework developed over the past forty years, considers how national political elites balance popular calls for truth and justice with the pragmatic need for stability in the aftermath of crisis. Prosecutions, truth recovery and amnesties or impunity are much studied mechanisms. Notably, these mechanisms have been deployed in the cases under consideration. Spain and Portugal took only minimal steps to address the causes of the crisis, in effect, pursuing a policy of immunity. Iceland and Cyprus set up ad hoc truth commissions to document the causes of the crisis. Ireland and Greece have prosecuted and convicted a number of bankers and politicians deemed responsible. The project seeks to explain why, despite similar background conditions, societies have formulated different policy responses and to identify the strengths and limitations of each response. This is important. Examining the comparative experience of societies who experiment with policy mechanisms will contribute to the design of better policy responses in times of crisis, decreasing the level of social upheaval, boosting political legitimacy and paving the way for meaningful institutional reform. This project is explicitly about the intersection of politics and law; it focuses on issues of political and institutional failure and the role of law in promoting accountability, responsibility and political learning from economic crises.

POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS AND BENEFITS
The project is both academic and policy relevant. At the academic level, it will use the analytical framework of transitional justice to consider why political elites in certain countries develop policies to account for the political and institutional causes of an economic crisis, while others do not. Economic perspectives now dominate relevant debates; unfortunately, these overlook issues of political and legal responsibility in times of economic crisis. The project's findings will be relevant to a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences, including politics, law, and economics, and have the potential to introduce a novel perspective to the study of economic crises.
At the same time, the scope of the project will allow it to contribute to policymaking. First, the project will explore the ways external supervision attached to IMF bailouts may affect domestic political leaders in dealing with the past. Based on empirical material collected during fieldwork and semi-structured interviews with IMF and EU executives as well as national political elites, the project will prepare and distribute policy briefings with practical recommendations to improve the design of future bailouts, creating space for issues of justice, truth and accountability to be addressed. Other policy briefings will encapsulate the central findings for each country; these will be of interest to local political elites, government departments, policymakers, and civil society activists. All briefings will be made publically available. In addition, a unique online open-access website will contain rich empirical data, including political decisions, court rulings and other legal precedents; these will be of value to lawyers, legal scholars and policymakers globally, as well as other interested parties, such as activists and NGOs.

Planned Impact

The results will be targeted at two broad groups of policy users: (a) domestic policy makers, including government agencies and political elites; (b) international/ supranational organisations.

The findings will help domestic policymakers design effective policy responses in times of economic uncertainty, addressing popular calls for justice while decreasing political upheaval and paving the way for institutional reform. The comparative nature of the project will illuminate strengths and weaknesses of various approaches (truth commissions, prosecutions, impunity) and suggest lessons to be learned from the experience of societies facing similar dilemmas. National stakeholders, including policymakers in departments of justice or the economy, designated parliamentary commissions, ombudsman bureaus, financial regulators, office of the Attorney General and central bank auditing departments, will be targeted as potential beneficiaries of the research.

There is an equal opportunity to influence the policymaking of international organisations. A key component of the project is to identify ways to improve the design of bailout programmes to create conditions conducive for societies to deal with non-economic causes of the crisis. The lessons drawn from a comparative analysis of the current crisis will help transnational institutions, such as the EU Commission (Directorate General of Justice) and the Council of Europe, to shape their policy responses based on systematic empirical evidence.

The project team has already developed links with or have pre-existing relations with policy makers in each case. For example, the PI has worked closely with key players in Greece (Central Bank of Greece and Ministry of Justice) and Spain (Ministry of the Interior). Co-I McEvoy has a 20-year relationship with the Irish Ambassador to the EU. Co-I Loizides has authored commissioned reports for the Council of Europe and has an established network of contacts with the Cypriot government, while Co-I Wheeler has worked with senior IMF executives on a number of research projects.
The team will continue to liaise with these and other policymakers from each country to receive feedback and fine-tune the design of the project. Policymakers will also play an active role in a conference in Belfast; their feedback will maximise potential impact.
Based on previous experience, the research team will prepare short policy briefings for each country, encapsulating major findings, making recommendations and suggesting lessons to be learned from other countries. The briefings will be available in English and in local languages and will be distributed to parliamentarians in the six countries and the IMF. Similarly, using existing structures of the University of Kent in Brussels, a dissemination workshop will be organised to inform selected members of the European parliament and executives of the EU Commission of central findings.

To increase visibility, researchers will prepare editorials for national and international media, including the Economist, Cyprus Mail, Kathimerini, Irish Times, and local media, such as El Pais, Jornal de Noticias and Morgunbladid (members of the research team have already published in these venues). Finally, the website will provide extensive empirical information, including material published by the project, legal precedents and podcasts with presentations of participants; these will be useful to policymakers, academics, lawyers, activists, NGOs and journalists in other countries.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project has made excellent progress in completing its original objectives. In addition to its academic objectives, the team has successfully disseminated key findings to a broader audience though editorials, and interviews to international media, including but not limited to the New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press.


1) The development of a new database titled 'Policies of Accountability after Crisis' (PAC) has been completed. All data on prosecutions, apologies and truth recovery initiatives in the six European countries under investigation have been collected and added into spreadsheets to be used in the online database. This will become the only available database with data on policies of accountability in the aftermath of the economic crisis in Europe. We expect to make this resource publicly available on the project's website after the completion of the project, once key outputs have been accepted for publication.

2) The project's second objective 'to conduct a thorough investigation of how policies of truth and accountability affect political stability using primary data from six countries' has also been completed. They key findings have been summarized in the six country reports are currently available on project's website, as well as the translated copies of the reports in local languages. The key findings have also been disseminated through our academic publication strategy (please see below), and in media outlets. All this information is available on project's website: https://www.accountabilityaftereconomiccrisis.com/

3) The third objective of the award, namely to conduct fieldwork in six European countries, Washington DC (IMF) and Brussels/Strasbourg (EU authorities) using semi-structured interviews has now been completed. The first wave of fieldwork was completed between April and September 2017 where the research team visited the six European countries and the IMF/Washington DC. Between September and December 2018 the research team carried out semi-structured interviews with high-level EU policymakers, to map the EU's agenda on post-crisis policies of accountability. In total we completed more than 110 interviews and carried out extensive interviews with local stakeholders, elected officials, former ministers, academics, members of the judiciary and other informed observers. We continue to analyze the data from interviews and other sources collected during fieldwork.

4) Our fourth award objective, namely the writing and dissemination of six policy reports to document the policy of accountability in the six countries in the aftermath of the crisis, has been completed. The country reports have been uploaded on the project's website, as well as their translated copies in local languages. These have been communicated/circulated to selected policymakers and other representatives of organizations mobilizing in the field of accountability. The project is currently drafting additional policy reports mapping the agenda of the IMF and the EU on issues related to accountability in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis. This is expected to be completed and uploaded on project's website by the end of the project in September 2019.

5) The fifth objective, namely the organization of an international conference and a policy workshop in Brussels, was also successfully completed in 2018. In particular, on 22nd of May 2018 the project organized an international interdisciplinary conference at the British Academy in London. Project members presented the key findings while invited participants (academics and policymakers) from all six European countries offered valuable feedback. On 18th of October 2018 the team organized a policy workshop in Brussels to disseminate the key findings to EU policymakers and a broader audience. The two events greatly benefited our efforts to receive valuable feedback, establish contacts with policymakers and fine-tune our publication strategy.

6) Finally, we have also made excellent progress in our publishing strategy. The project had already published in 2018 in Political Studies a co-authored paper exploring the comparative success of three European truth commissions in the aftermath of the crisis. Other three (co-authored) papers are currently under review in high-impact factor journals, while the PI is currently drafting a book proposal to be submitted to a University Press after the end of the project (Please see below).
Exploitation Route As we enter the final year of the project, we have a clear agenda of disseminating the findings through academic publications in prestigious outlets and presentations in important national and international conferences.

The team has multiple paper acceptances for the coming months, including:

• 'The EU's Approach to Post-crisis Accountability: Is There a Learning Effect?', Mustafa Kutlay & Iosif Kovras, International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention, Toronto, Canada (26-30 March 2019)
• 'Crisis and Punishment? Explaining Bankers' Prosecutions in Post-Crisis Europe', Iosif Kovras & Stefano Pagliari, Political Studies Association (PSA) Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK (17-18 April 2019)
• 'The EU's Approach to Post-crisis Accountability: Is There a Learning Effect?', Mustafa Kutlay & Iosif Kovras, Political Studies Association (PSA) Annual Conference, Nottingham, UK (17-18 April 2019)
• Crisis and Punishment? Explaining Bankers' Prosecutions in Post-Crisis Europe', Iosif Kovras & Stefano Pagliari, 26th International Conference of Europeanists, Council of European Studies, Madrid, Spain (20-22 June 2019)
• 'The EU's Approach to Post-crisis Accountability: Is There a Learning Effect?', Mustafa Kutlay & Iosif Kovras, 26th International Conference of Europeanists, Council of European Studies, Madrid, Spain (20-22 June 2019)

The research team has already completed drafting three articles, currently under review. In particular a co-authored article explores the puzzling variation in prosecutions of bank executives in the aftermath of the financial crisis in four European countries. A second co-authored paper explores why only in some countries politicians and bankers offered public apologies for their actions or omissions in the lead up the crisis while in others refrained. Finally, a third paper explores the puzzling absence of policies of accountability from the EU's agenda in the aftermath of the recent crisis. Apart from the academic publications, we also aim to disseminate our findings to a broader non-academic audience. Building on existing contacts with major international media, we plan to prepare a number of additional editorials and give interviews after the publication of academic articles.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL https://accountabilityaftereconomiccrisis.com/
 
Description The first two years of the project the research team focused on collecting and analyzing a large volume of data drawn from extensive fieldwork in six jurisdictions and two international/transnational organizations. Any impact necessitates the analysis of key findings first, as such the impact strategy came to the center stage primarily in the third year of the project. In the past few months the research team has successfully disseminated key findings to diverse audiences through the international media. In particular, on the 10th anniversary of the Icelandic 'Crash' in December 2018, the PI published an editorial in the Conversation that was also reproduced by international organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, and other national media (Metro, inewspaper). More than 13,600 readers have read the editorial globally. Most importantly, the PI was interviewed by international media on the lessons stemming from the policies of accountability deployed by the Icelandic authorities. His interviews have been reproduced in major international media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press and other international media. In parallel with its publication agenda and the broader media/dissemination strategy, the project will continue to foster collaborations with EU policymakers and national stakeholders who have expressed interest in the project's effort to identify the most effective policies of accountability to restore trust to institutions. The conference organized in May 2018 helped us maintain close contact with representatives of the Greek branch of Transparency International and the Spanish pro-accountability NGO 'Hay Derecho'.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Title Policies of Accountability after crisis (PAC) database 
Description Data collection is completed for a comprehensive database of the main tools of accountability (truth commissions, prosecutions, and apologies) used in reaction to the 2008 financial crisis in six countries. Over 1300 items have been added in support of this database in Zotero. Though the data collection is complete, the construction of the database is planned for the next year as the project proceeds (i.e., the data has not been fully uploaded onto a platform and made public). Currently, we are transferring the qualitative data into spreadsheets that will be uploaded to the final searchable, web-based database. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Because the database is not yet complete, nor has it been made public, there are no impacts as of yet. 
 
Description Academic Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The project team organized a panel in the American Political Science Association (APSA) conference. On August 30th 2018 the research team of the project organized a panel titled 'Accountability after Economic Crises: Institutional Flaws and Political Learning'. The papers shed light on the nexus between policies of accountability and learning from past policy failures in countries that have recently emerged from the post-2008 financial crisis. The comparative and interdisciplinary panel applied the concepts of transitional justice, namely, 'dealing with the past', to investigate how four European societies (Iceland, Greece, Cyprus, Ireland) have come to terms with the origins and consequences of the crisis. The panel drew on this year's call to address questions as to how democracies are coping with the emergence of new economic, social and cultural cleavages as well as how political elites and others challenge the legitimacy of existing institutions and remake new ones. The individual papers provided novel theoretical insights informed by various disciplines (law, political science and public administration) as well as draw on new databases funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on the political, legal, criminal and regulatory policies formulated in each country as well as incidents of political polarization and governmental instability.

The working papers will soon be available on our website.

The first paper, co-authored by Nadia Hilliard, Iosif Kovras and Neophytos Loizides titled Accountability in Comparative Governance: Flawed Paradigm? critiques the accountability paradigm as expressed in the broader field of comparative political studies. Specifically, we explore the dark side of accountability as a vehicle in the rise of global populism and highlight practices that undermine other core democratic values, such as political learning, consensus-building, and citizens' rights. We argue that accountability lacks conceptual clarity despite its recurrent use by scholars, the media, and public figures. We present examples of its contested meaning, failures to deliver on promises, and adverse consequences on liberal, emerging or post-conflict democracies. Finally, we argue for a nuanced disaggregation of the concept, distinguishing between retrospective and prospective accountability in comparative politics.

The second paper is co-authored by Kieran McEvoy and Iosif Kovras, and it is titled Who's Sorry Now? Explaining (Non)Apologies in Post-Crisis Europe'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://convention2.allacademic.com/one/apsa/apsa18/index.php?cmd=Online+Program+View+Session&select...
 
Description Editorial/Op-ed 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI Dr Iosif Kovras and Dr. Shaun McDaid wrote an editorial on the Politial Studies Association's (PSA) blog on 8 January 2018. The piece, entitled, 'Truth Commissions after Economic Meltdown: Learning or Blame Game', summarized the findings from a recently co-authored article published in Political Studies on the strneghts and limitations of economic truth commissions. The editorial gleans insights from Dr Kovras' research affiliated with the Truth, Accountability, or Impunity project. The PSA blog reaches a large national audience including many politicians and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/truth-commissions-after-economic-meltdown-learning-or-blame-...
 
Description Editorial/Op-ed 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact On the 10th Anniversary of the Financial 'Crash' the PI (Dr. Iosif Kovras) wrote an editorial titled 'How to deal with the next financial crisis - Take some Lessons from Iceland' for the Conversation. The piece was read by more than 13,600 readers and was reproduced in other national/ international media (Metro, inewspaper), and international organizations, including the World Economic Forum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://theconversation.com/how-to-deal-with-the-next-financial-crisis-take-some-lessons-from-icelan...
 
Description Editorial/Op-ed 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PI Dr Iosif Kovras and Research COnsulant (Iceland), Mr Ragnar Hjallmarsson, wrote an editorial on LSE/s European Politics and Policy (EUROPP) on 5 December 2017. The piece, entitled, 'Should we Prosecute Political Leaders after a Crisis? Lessons from Iceland', applied the lessons from the Icelandic experience of prosecuting the PM after the crisis and its adverse impact on political stability and political culture of consensus, gleaned from Dr Kovras' and Mr Hjallmarsons' research affiliated with the Truth, Accountability, or Impunity project. The LSE EUROPP blog reaches a large international audience including many politicians and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/12/06/should-we-prosecute-political-leaders-after-a-crisis-le...
 
Description Federal Reserve conference (Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The event was a day-long workshop/conference on the role of the US Federal Reserve specifically, and central banks more generally, in reproducing inequality, held at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. Postdoctoral researcher Dr Nadia Hilliard was invited to attend to chair a panel on growing financialization and to give comments about the international perspective based on her work with the Truth, Accountability, or Impunity research team. The participants, mostly academics from a range of disciplines (political science, political economy, sociology, anthropology, and history), study and publish policy-relevant articles about the effects of central bank decisions on inequality, especially in times of crisis. Participants engaged with Dr Hilliard's comments and reported interest in the outputs of the Truth, Accountability, or Impunity project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Media Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The PI (Dr Iosif Kovras) was interviewed by the Associated Press on the lessons gleaned from the policies of accountbaility deployed by the Icelandic authorities in dealing with the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. The interview was reproduced in other major international media including The New York Times and Washington Post.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.apnews.com/0587b5049052475e8d1458a21fa74353
 
Description Organizing International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Accountability After Crisis Conference
One-Day Conference Ooganised by the Research Team of the ESRC-funded Project.

Venue: The Lecture Room, The British Academy
10-11 Carlton House Terrace, St James's
London SW1Y 5AH
Tuesday 22nd May, 2018
At: 8.30am - 5.00pm

Summary: The Financial Crisis that began in 2008 provoked varied political responses across the world, from public protests to Troika-led bailouts. It also led to different dynamics of public accountability in each country, including popular calls to put bankers in jail, civil service reforms, and waves of anti-corruption prosecutions. Understanding why certain tools of accountability, such as prosecutions, apologies, and fact-finding commissions, were used differentially across Europe begs many questions about the political calculations that governed the response to the crisis.

The team of the Accountability after Economic Crisis project, an interdisciplinary collaborative project (City University of London, Queen's University, Belfast and University of Kent), explored these dynamics as they unfolded in six European countries: Cyprus, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. A one-day conference was held at the British Academy, an international team of academics and policy makers presented the fruits of two years of research into the politics of accountability, providing both comparative and country-specific perspectives.

The conference aimed to foster dialogue about the policy solutions available to public officials in times of economic crisis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://accountabilityaftereconomiccrisis.com/accountability-after-crisis-conference/
 
Description Organizing a Policy Roundable 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The project team organizes a roundtable in Brussels

On 18th October 2018, the project organized a roundtable in Brussels (Brussels School of International Studies). The panel shed light on the nexus between policies of accountability and learning from past policy failures in countries emerging from economic crisis. Although there is a vast literature on economic crises, we know relatively little about which conditions facilitate or impede the decision of countries and international bodies to engage with issues of accountability and responsibility. Ten years on, the Great Recession provides an excellent backdrop against which to examine these processes, as international organizations and post-crisis countries have set up investigative (or judicial) mechanisms to deal with the political and institutional flaws that led to the meltdowns, ranging from commissions of inquiry to prosecutions of financial and political actors. The three contributions in this roundtable examined the puzzling variations in the types of crises and punishments in post-crisis Europe (Kovras & Pagliari), the role of the European Central Bank in ensuring accountability in the post-Crisis Era (Popelier & Lettanie) as well as the impact of cabinet and cabinet replacements in parliamentary accountability (Barnes & Morgan-Jones). Aiming to address the new challenges between effective governance and accountability, this roundtable highlighted the broader challenges facing post-crisis Europe in the 21st century.

Crisis & Punishment? Explaining Politicians' Appetite for Retribution in Post-Crisis Europe

Iosif Kovras Reader in Comparative Politics, City University of London) & Stefano Pagliari Senior Lecturer in International Politics, City University of London.

Re-assessing the European Central Bank's Independence and Accountability in the Post-Crisis Era

Patricia Popelier Professor of constitutional law at the law faculty of the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and the Vice President of the International Association of Legislation & Ute Lettanie PhD Candidate at the Law Faculty of the University of Antwerp (Belgium).

Cabinet Replacements and Parliamentary Accountability

Lucy Barnes Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University College London & Edward Morgan-Jones Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent.

Isabelle Ioannides, Senior Associate Researcher, Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Discussant)

Neophytos Loizides Professor at the School of Politics and IR at the University of Kent (Chair)

Venue:

Brussels School of International Studies (BSIS), University of Kent

Boulevard Louis Schmidt 2a, 1040 Brussels, Belgium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blogs.kent.ac.uk/brussels-news-events/2018/10/03/roundtable-18-octobre-accountability-after-...
 
Description Seminar/Presentation on the role of Central Banks in the Financial Crisis 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A dozen participants attended a talk about the role of central banking in financial crisis based on the projects findings. The talk segued into a seminar discussion and prompted further interest in the project and in theorising the role of central banking during crisis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Washington Post Op-ed 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact PI Dr Iosif Kovras and Co-I Dr Neophytos Loizides wrote an editorial on the Washingon Post's prestigious 'Monkey Cage' column and newsletter on 30 November 2016. The piece, entitled, 'Italy votes Sunday on changing its political system. Here are 3 lessons from Greece', applied the lessons from the Greek experience of electoral change during crisis, gleaned from Dr Kovras' and Dr Loizides' research affiliated with the Truth, Accountability, or Impunity project. The Monkey Cage reaches a large international audience including many politicians and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/11/30/italys-dec-4-referendum-may-change-the...