Transparency International chapters from 26 countries in Europe and Central Asia gather in Armenia this week to find common solutions to tackling corruption
Against the backdrop of a newly enlarged European Union (EU), Transparency International (TI), the leading non-governmental organisation fighting corruption, is holding its first Europe & Central Asia regional meeting in Yerevan on 18-20 June.
"There are clear signs that the corruption gap is widening in Europe," said TI Regional Director Miklos Marschall, speaking today in Yerevan. "As the recent World Bank report Anticorruption in Transition 2 and our own Corruption Perceptions Index indicate, the Former Soviet Union and most of south-east Europe are lagging behind in the fight against corruption compared to EU members and candidate countries."
But the lessons from EU enlargement highlight that targeted efforts at anti-corruption reform can turn around a country's situation. According to Marschall: "The ten new members of the EU passed robust anti-corruption legislation before their entry into the Union; the challenge, which will be discussed in Yerevan, is how to ensure that such laws are enforced."
"European Union membership prospects are indeed a major incentive for reform among the EU's neighbours," says Amalia Kostanyan, Chairperson of the Center for Regional Development (CRD), TI's national chapter in Armenia. She added: "But in our countries, there is still an urgent need for political will and broad public support to systematically address corruption."
A striking example in the region is Georgia, a country whose leader, President Mikhail Saakashvili, has declared a "war on corruption", attacking both corruption's systemic roots while pursuing high-level prosecutions. "It is imperative that Georgia succeeds in its efforts to curb corruption, not only for the country itself, but as a beacon for its neighbours in the reform actions that they too need to take," said TI Chief Executive David Nussbaum, who will also attend the regional meeting in Yerevan.
While all eyes will be on the next group of EU accession candidates, it is vital that political leaders across Europe acknowledge their responsibilities in the fight against corruption. Older EU member countries have even recently exhibited serious corruption problems, which must be addressed. One area of particular concern to citizens across the EU is corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral processes, a topic which will be on the agenda in Yerevan at a special workshop on political corruption. The EU must also accept its responsibilities as the biggest investor in the CIS and south-east Europe.
The selection of the South Caucasus for Transparency International's first Europe & Central Asia regional conference highlights corruption's direct link to regional stability. The meeting will address key prerequisites to fighting corruption in the region such as genuine political will for crucial reforms, the active role of civil society in curbing corruption and the effective application of international standards.
The regional conference is organised by CRD/TI-Armenia and the TI-Secretariat, and a workshop on political finance is co-organised by the Council of Europe. Funding was provided by the following institutions and organisations: the British Embassy in Yerevan, Council of Europe, European Union, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Open Society Institute, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
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