The rule of law is a key prerequisite for a functioning democracy, social justice, freedom and enduring peace. Unfortunately, so far it has remained a pipe dream for many people in the countries on Europe’s periphery. Studies on transformation regularly cite corruption as a leading disruptive factor.
The European summit held virtually on June 18, 2020 reiterated the Eastern Partnership’s (EaP) strategic importance. The heads of state and government agreed to five policy priorities, including good governance. At the next EaP summit, planned as a face-to-face meeting in March 2021, the long-term deliverables of EaP policy beyond 2020 will be approved.
A key starting point for this is the joint communication on Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020, stressing “the need to significantly improve results in the governance area, notably rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime, and the role of an independent media and civil society”. As an additional basis, the Council reaffirmed the “joint commitment to building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability” on May 11, 2020.
The country reports in our publication describe and analyze anti-corruption reforms in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia along with their impacts, regardless of whether they target good governance and political participation, administrative reform, the judiciary and law enforcement, or competition, entrepreneurship, property rights, health care and education.
Almost every area examined deserves its own study. Nonetheless, we decided on a comprehensive analysis – to illustrate how complex corruption is and how directly it affects people and almost every aspect of their everyday lives. A concluding comparison of the three South Caucasus states is revealing, since each country developed differently after gaining independence at the beginning of the 1990s and each has its own approach to dealing with corruption.
The successes achieved by Georgia, the region’s “anti-corruption champion,” have only been partially sustainable. Against the background of considerable material and financial support provided by the EU, the results of a survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center are cause for concern: Only 1 percent of all Georgians view the EU as a “friend.” A survey carried out by the project EU NEIGHBOURS east gives a completely different impression, however: Two-thirds of all Georgians feel that relations between the EU and Georgia are good, and a clear majority say they trust the EU.
The political opening and social engagement in Armenia are impressive. Against this background, it is difficult to understand why Germany’s government would want to phase out its bilateral cooperation with the country – at a time when the door to reform and modernization is open.
In Azerbaijan, the decline in petty corruption has been striking. However, according to the author of the country reports, this does not mean that the state is giving the public more opportunities to participate, but is trying to hold on to power instead. Similarly, on a global level, it remains to be seen whether Baku is merely attempting to increase its international recognition or is becoming a true adherent of multilateralism.
Crises of epic proportions, such as those triggered by the corona pandemic, put a spotlight on existing shortcomings. Yet crises also offer the opportunity to act on policy initiatives and transform dysfunctional structures. They are therefore one more reason why we should focus on promoting good governance, the rule of law and anti-corruption measures in the European neighborhood.