A lack of progress fighting corruption in five Eastern European countries is hampering democratic progress and undermining the prospect of greater economic and political cooperation with the European Union, warns Transparency International.
The new report, “The State of Corruption: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine”, assesses more than 60 institutions responsible for preventing and fighting corruption, and finds the judiciary, legislature and civil society to be especially weak due to political interference and a lack of independent oversight.
While all five countries have adopted anti-corruption laws, political and business elites exert influence over important watchdog institutions, such as the judiciary and legislature, allowing their power to go unchecked and limiting the effectiveness of law enforcement. Politically motivated prosecutions and government interference to circumvent judicial processes are especially problematic in Ukraine and Moldova – where several judges have been convicted of receiving bribes.
Over the next five years, the EU's neighbouring partner countries are set to receive at least €15 billion in assistance from the EU. The risk of this money going into corrupt pockets rather than helping people live better lives is unacceptably high.
“The system of checks and balances against corruption across these countries lacks oversight or accountability. Corrupt individuals – be they politicians or businesspersons – are often able to get away without worry of prosecution,” says Anne Koch, Director of Europe and Central Asia Department, Transparency International.
The region has also seen a growing trend of restrictions on non-state watchdogs – media and civil society – with intimidation, harassment, persecution and detainment of civic activists and journalists in Armenia and, in particular, in Azerbaijan of major concern.
EU cooperation with the five Eastern neighbours hangs in the balance
After over 10 years of engagement between the EU and its eastern neighbours, the Eastern Partnership is at a turning point, with concrete proposals for reform to be announced in autumn 2015.
The onus to tackle corruption is not only on the partner countries – it is a mutual responsibility, and the EU must also step up its efforts to ensure partner countries uphold their commitment to fight corruption.
Without specific anti-corruption commitments and priorities defined by the EU, and without support and dialogue with civil society as a key partner in the region, the cooperation between the EU and the partner countries to fight corruption could be at risk.
Transparency International calls Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to:
- Implement urgent judicial reforms and ensure effective and impartial prosecution of corruption offences.
- Strengthen external oversight of the government, ensuring that sanctions are imposed for failure to act on findings of external oversight agencies.
- Support a free and vibrant civil society sector, including ending legal and financial restrictions on civil society organisations and ending all forms of intimidation, harassment and persecution of civil society activists and journalists.
Transparency International calls on the EU to:
- Clearly articulate and prioritise specific anti-corruption commitments to which partner countries must subscribe and make it conditional to future financial support.
- Make sure civil society, a key partner in the region in the fight against corruption, remains free from restriction, intimidation and political interference.
The contents of this publication – produced under the framework of the EU-funded project "National Integrity System Assessment in the European Neighbourhood East region – are the sole responsibility of Transparency International and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. The apportioned grant by EU for this project is in the amount of 680,517.92 EUR (90% of the total budget).
The report can be found at: www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/the_state_of_corruption_armenia_azerbaijan_georgia_moldova_and_ukraine
This project is funded by the European Union.
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