Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the second-lowest performing region on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with an average score of 35. Across the region, countries experience limited separation of powers, abuse of state resources for electoral purposes, opaque political party financing and conflicts of interest. Only three countries score above the global average: Georgia (56), Belarus (45) and Montenegro (45). At the bottom of the region are Turkmenistan (19), Uzbekistan (25) and Tajikistan (25).
Strong political influence over oversight institutions, insufficient judicial independence and limited press freedoms serve to create an over-concentration of power in many countries across the region.
Stagnation in Western Balkans and Turkey
Despite aspirations to join the European Union, the scores in six Western Balkan countries and Turkey have not improved. Turkey (39) declined significantly by 10 points since 2012, while Bosnia and Herzegovina (36) declined by six points in the same period. A lack of political will and a decline in implementation of laws and regulations are real challenges.
State capture in post-Soviet states
Since 2012, Belarus (45), Kyrgyzstan (30) and Uzbekistan (25) have significantly improved on the CPI. However, these three post-Soviet states continue to experience state capture and a failure to preserve checks and balances. While Uzbekistan has loosened some media restrictions, it still remains one of the most authoritarian regimes worldwide.
State capture and the concentration of power in private hands remain a major stumbling block in the region. Undue influence over key institutions continue to present the utmost challenge to political integrity in Georgia (56), which dropped two points on the CPI since last year.
Despite 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections delivering change in Ukraine (30), political power remains concentrated in the hands of the president and their political party, jeopardising the system of checks and balances. The country saw a two-point fall in its CPI score this year.
Corruption can only be addressed effectively if political leaders prioritise public interests and set an example for transparency.
Country to watch: Armenia
In Armenia, political will and implementation of anti-corruption policies are important, while fundamental and urgent change of political culture and governance is crucial.
With a score of 42, Armenia improves by seven points since last year. Following the revolution in 2018 and the formation of a new parliament, the country has demonstrated promising developments in advancing anti-corruption policy reforms. Despite these improvements, conflicts of interests and non- transparent and unaccountable public operations remain impediments to ending corruption in the country.
While improving political integrity will take time and resources, increasing public trust in law enforcement and the judiciary are critical first steps in ensuring appropriate checks and balances and improving anti-corruption efforts.
Country to watch: Kosovo
In Kosovo, the new parliament has an opportunity to reverse the shortcomings of the previous administration and prioritise anti-corruption efforts
With a score of 36, Kosovo is experiencing a shift in parliamentary power that could offer an opportunity for change. After years of criticising the government and international community in Kosovo for their failure to address corruption, the Self-Determination (Vetevendosje) party, which recently won a majority of parliamentary seats, has a chance to demonstrate its commitment to combating corruption.
During the election campaign, the party was one of a few that responded to requests to disclose campaign costs. However, it remains to be seen if a new government will live up to a higher standard of political integrity. It can do so by abandoning the usual practice of political appointments in state-owned enterprises and by establishing a strong legal obligation for financial disclosure by political parties.
Image: iStock.com / Evren Kalinbacak
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