Digital Whistleblowing. Blessing or Curse?

Whistleblowing Panel

What does whistleblowing look like in the digital age? What are its benefits and pitfalls? On 17 November 2015 the Hertie School of Governance and the Council of Europe hosted a discussion on these questions. The event was a satellite event to the World Forum for Democracy, taking place at the Council of Europe 18 – 21 November and focusing on finding the right balance between freedom and control in democratic societies. The Hertie School brought together a set of panellists from a variation of countries and fields to present their very own experiences of working with whistleblowing. The panel was moderated by Anne Koch, regional director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International.

The different panellists showcased various experiences of working in the context of whistleblowing: Marius Dragomir, a journalist and senior manager for the independent journalism programme of the Open Society Foundations in London, Maksymilian Czuperski, working the Atlantic Council which recently supported the collection of evidence for the presence of Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine by crowdsourcing information from citizens. It also featured Simona Levi, the founder of Xnet, a Spanish online journalism platform specialized on engaging citizen. Xnet actively calls upon citizens to become whistleblowers and leak undisclosed information in order to uncover corrupt behaviour.

The final two panellists were Mara Mendes, project manager for Open Knowledge Germany and Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, professor of democratization at the Hertie School. They presented DIGIWHIST, a new EU Horizon 2020 project. The project aims at increasing transparency and efficiency of public spending. It will do this through the systematic collection, structuring, analysis, and broad dissemination of information on public procurement through online platforms. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi highlighted the centrality of procurement data in fighting corruption. Linked to information on aggregate asset and income declarations data, she hopes that this data will help detect potential conflicts of interest and identify systemic vulnerabilities. In this way DIGIWHIST is supposed to specifically support journalists in creating transparency within the procurement sector.

What is a whistleblower?

One reoccurring theme at the discussion was the actual definition of a whistleblower. Anne Koch opened the panel by describing it as “any person that wants to report wrong doing to someone who can do something against the problem.” This stood somehow in contrast to the experience of Xnet’s Simona Levi, who, for instance, collected emails from whistleblowers at big Spanish banks and reported on wrongdoings in these contexts. The panel agreed though that a whistleblower does not necessarily have to be someone working for the government or a private enterprise and release information from the inside. For Alina Mungiu-Pippidi it was “a person who is aware of a situation the rest of the world is not and brings it to public attention.” It can also be a group of people collectively gathering information that the wider public is unaware off, or analyse data collectively in order to highlight important information.

Who has the right to decide?

The debate also looked at the pitfalls of whistleblowing and discussed the questions of what safeguards are needed to prevent harm to innocent individuals through whistleblowing. In many countries protection of whistleblowers is still deficient and there are no laws specifically protecting whistleblowers from prosecution. Often those willing to share information are unaware of technical tools which can be used to protect their identity. The participants highlighted tools such as GlobaLeaks, which provides anonymous channels for whistleblowers. Journalists in particular carry a twofold responsibility. On the one hand they need to protect their sources and those who entrust them with information, also by teaching them secure ways to share information. Journalists, however, are also responsible for the information they publish. When Anne Koch asked the panel who has the right to decide what publications are in the public interest, the panel generally agreed: journalists can decide, but they have to be aware of their special responsibility. They will, however, always be better placed to decide than civil servants who might incriminate themselves by publishing data.

In the end, the best kind of whistleblowing might be done collectively. Communities of people can uncover corrupt behaviour of local officials and document what is happening around them. Also, individual whistleblowers depend on those around them. As Alina Mungiu-Pippidi pointed out: “In the end, laws cannot protect whistleblowers, but public opinion can.” A similar conclusion was also taken at a panel on safe whistleblowing at the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, which representatives of ERCAS also attended. One conclusion to be taken from both discussions is that whistleblowing should not remain an exception, but it should become the norm for citizens to report wrongdoings that they witness.

Multi-Nationals and Corruption Systems: The Case of Siemens

Scholars tend to agree and evidence has shown that domestic businesses adapt to the local type of corruption, but little is known whether large multinational corporations also adapt to the local forms of corruption. Institutionalist theories of corruption and of international political economy would suggest that this would be the case, but the hypothesis has not, to our knowledge, been systematically tested. This paper, drawing on investigative materials about the activities of one such multinational, the German corporation Siemens AG, examines how it used corruption and bribery to advance its business around the world. We extrapolate from the logic of four “syndromes of corruption”, as Michael Johnston terms them, to develop specific hypotheses about the kind of behavior multinational corporations would be expected to exhibit when doing business in each of the four kinds of syndromes. We examine and compare Siemens’ activities in the United States, Italy, Russia and China. We find that Siemens did adapt to the local corruption form (or “syndrome”) and used, among others, different types of intermediaries to approach the local elites. The evidence from these case studies supports the institutionalist argument that multinationals distinguish between corrupt environments and further supports the argument that there exist different types, or syndromes, of corruption.

Multi-Nationals and Corruption Systems: The Case of Siemens

Scholars tend to agree and evidence has shown that domestic businesses adapt to the local type of corruption, but little is known whether large multinational corporations also adapt to the local forms of corruption. Institutionalist theories of corruption and of international political economy would suggest that this would be the case, but the hypothesis has not, to our knowledge, been systematically tested. This paper, drawing on investigative materials about the activities of one such multinational, the German corporation Siemens AG, examines how it used corruption and bribery to advance its business around the world. We extrapolate from the logic of four “syndromes of corruption”, as Michael Johnston terms them, to develop specific hypotheses about the kind of behavior multinational corporations would be expected to exhibit when doing business in each of the four kinds of syndromes. We examine and compare Siemens’ activities in the United States, Italy, Russia and China. We find that Siemens did adapt to the local corruption form (or “syndrome”) and used, among others, different types of intermediaries to approach the local elites. The evidence from these case studies supports the institutionalist argument that multinationals distinguish between corrupt environments and further supports the argument that there exist different types, or syndromes, of corruption.

Democracy in Decline

What is the state of global democracy? According to renowned democracy expert Professor Larry Diamond who spoke last week at Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance , democracy around the world continues to decline largely because of a lack of good governance.

During the event, chaired by ERCAS Director Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor Diamond presented evidence that between 2005 and 2014, Freedom House scores (assessments of political rights and civil liberties, both of which are reported every year by the organisation) consistently declined. While 5 new democracies (Fiji, Kosovo, Madagascar, Maldives, Solomon Islands) were added to the global tally, the overall trend is shifting away from democracy.

Diamond highlighted the breakdown of democracy in Russia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Kenya. In Africa, 25 nations declined in their Freedom House scores, 11 improved, and democracy overall on the continent eroded. He argued that the situation in Venezuela is continuing to deteriorate, and pointed to the incipient populist authoritarian leadership in Bolivia and Ecuador as further cause for alarm.

Shifting focus to the Middle East, Diamond looked at what he dubbed an “Arab Freeze”, arguing that the hope of the Arab Spring has in fact failed to deliver democratic gains, with the exception of Tunisia where democracy is slowly taking hold.

Why have so many democracies broken down? Diamond argues that in all instances there is a weak rule of law coupled with executive abuse of power. Many fragile or failed democracies are also quite complicated countries; they are quite ethnically or religiously or linguistically diverse.  If, as Diamond pointed out, effective institutions are not developed and if broad and inclusive political coalitions are not developed, the results (for example in Ukraine) can be disastrous. Poor economic performance can also have a detrimental effect on democracy, but Diamond argues that government performance and perception of legitimacy by citizens is sometimes as or more important than mere economic success.

With many established democracies mired in legislative deadlock, and authoritarian countries gaining global influence, there seems to be little hope of inspiring new democracies. The rise of China for example as a global economic power could have negative impacts on leaders of non-democratic states who could argue that authoritarianism has produced good economic results. On a slightly more upbeat note, Diamond did point out that there is a real possibility (even in China) of economic success leading to more citizen demands for democracy. When these happen in countries that are already high-functioning, there is a a hope for democracy taking hold.

Doublethink, Russian Style

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Photo credit: Co Creatr, Flickr

Picture the following scenario: A top Russian manager advocates for equal opportunities and, when hiring new employees, insists upon relying only on their professional competences. In this way, he has given chances to a formerly drug-addicted young man and a young woman with dwarfism. The same manager does not extend the same opportunities to homosexual job seekers, however. A high-ranking state official criticizes his son’s professors at a Russian public university for asking him to purchase some sports equipment for the university gym in exchange for a grade for sports lessons his son had missed. The same state official, however, welcomes a full renovation of his office paid for by a company, calling it ‘a nice gesture’[1] between ‘very good friends’. He might consider granting this company some small favors that are within his power.

Why does this happen? Why do people have double standards? Alena Ledeneva calls it ambivalence – or ‘doublethink’, after George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ – and traces it back to Soviet ideology. In the Soviet era, people easily switched from what was permissible for Jove (= Party leaders) and what was not permissible for an ox (= ordinary Russian citizens), from what was sanctioned in society and what was welcomed between close friends. This ambivalence is one of the major findings in the survey conducted in the context of WP4, ‘The Ethnographic Study of Corruption Practices’ (ANTICORRP), in several regions in Russia. The results showed that there might be many in-between options: institutions might be bad and good at the same time and gifts might be both helpful and unhelpful.

As Davide Torsello argues, one of the most appreciated gifts in many East European countries is a “premium chocolate box” – with or without some hidden cash. This also happens in Russia. Many patients believe that small gifts might be helpful in order to obtain good medical treatment. Many Russians consider this to be the norm, ‘a sign of gratitude’ for their doctor’s patience. Small gifts can ‘compensate for low salaries’, especially the salaries of doctors working for public health institutions, according to a majority of the respondents.

A ‘premium chocolate box’ does not, however, guarantee good medical treatment. It might depend on various factors, such as whether or not this doctor is a professional in his field. ‘What if a doctor is an incompetent idiot and the gifts will be useless?’ Is a “premium chocolate box” really necessary, or can the problem be solved without any gifts? Is a “premium chocolate box” enough to solve a problem if medical expertise is sought, for example, by young recruiters not willing to serve in the Russian army or applicants for a new driver’s license? In the first case, some sicknesses might be likely ‘found’; in the second case, some sicknesses might be ‘ignored’. Is there a proper way to give a “premium chocolate box”? ‘Some [patients] give gifts in such a humiliating way that it only ruins [the doctors’] attitude toward them’.

What actually happens with a “premium chocolate box”? One interviewed doctor explained that he usually shares the sweets with his team at their daily tea break. Sometimes he even insists that any banknotes should be given to one of his nurses, a single mother, ‘who does not have even enough money for firewood’. In any case, most of the “premium chocolate boxes” are worked off fairly. One respondent recalled: ‘My daughter was hospitalized with a serious diagnosis. We paid 30,000 RUB [~750 EUR] to a department head, and he personally visited my daughter every day, bought and acquired medicines for her, accompanied her to her examinations. Others were not treated like that’. The last point is crucial: ‘And if you have nothing to pay with?’ What if patients cannot afford to buy a “premium chocolate box”?

In analyzing another sector – the Russian education sector – Efim Galitskii and Mark Levin found a similar environment: Many of the parents who are not involved in informal payment schemes on behalf of their children either cannot afford it (= cannot buy a “premium chocolate box”) and/or do not know how to do it (= how to ‘create’ and give a “premium chocolate box”).

The next phase of research will examine this phenomenon of ambivalence in different sectors and its systematization, following the work started recently by Alena Ledeneva. What is a “premium chocolate box”? What can it help achieve, and in what situations is it effective? How can the practice be justified by givers, receivers and outsiders? Receiving a gift of chocolates from a Russian does not always have a hidden meaning or obligation, however. The survey showed that gifts are a significant part of the culture, while reciprocating received gifts is a less important custom for Russians.

Dr. Elena Denisova-Schmidt is currently a FP7 Visiting Fellow at the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies. Her work concerns corruption and informal practices in Russia and Ukraine, focusing on the educational sector and the business environment.

 

[1] Citations in the text refer to interviews conducted as part of a survey on corruption in Russia between July – November 2013 (N=115).

The Splintering of Postcommunist Europe

There are two radically different versions of the postcommunist narrative. One tells the triumphal tale of the only world region in which the reforms recommended by the “Washington consensus” worked. The other and more realistic account speaks of a historic window of opportunity that lasted for only a quarter-century, during which efforts by the West and patriotic elites of Central and Eastern Europe managed to drag the region into Europe proper, leaving Europe and Russia pitted against each other along the old “civilizational” border between them. This essay argues that while Institutional choices matter in the postcommunist world, geopolitical and civilizational boundaries still set the horizons of political possibility.

The Ambivalent Future of Ukraine

This article was originally published online in the Hot Spots Forum of the journal Cultural Anthropology. It is republished here with permission of the author.

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“Illustration of Ambivalence by Robert Neubecker for Ian Leslie’s ‘Ambivalence is Awesome’ on Slate, June 13, 2013.”

The situation in Ukraine can be grasped best by a specialist on geopolitics, a scholar of the (il)legitimacy of power, an ethnographer of insurgencies, an analyst of media propaganda wars, a trauma therapist, or by a psychologist of phobias and love-hate relationships. I have none of those specialisms, but I share their intellectual challenge—the theme of ambivalence. While “East” and “West” embark on another cycle of ideological confrontation and political standoff, there is little room left for marginal positions and ambivalent attitudes. As the outside world lashes out at Putin over the Crimea and East Ukraine, Russians turn wartime patriotic. Yet paradoxically, exactly because it is impossible to achieve a consensus, and because the black-and-white forefront positions over the Crimea and east Ukraine split families, friendships, and international clubs, it is the understanding of grey areas and backgrounds that might help define the way forward for Ukraine.

The Bi-Polar Background

One legacy shared by most survivors of oppressive political regimes is what George Orwell called “doublethink” and what Yury Levada and Alexander Zinoviev branded as being the key feature of Homo sovieticus. Under late socialism, as the present-day elites in Russia and Ukraine were growing up, it was irrelevant whether people believed official ideological messages or not. Instead, the relation to officialdom became based on intricate strategies of simulated support and on “nonofficial” practices (Yurchak 1997, 162). Individual doublethink developed into collective double standards that implied the ability to hold contradictory views in private and in public and the capacity of switching between them smoothly, when applied to “us” and “them,” to “ordinary citizens” and to the Party leaders, and to one’s personal circle and to society as a whole.

In its sociological sense, ambivalence, in the definition of Robert Merton, refers to incompatible normative expectations of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. The incompatibility is assigned to a status and the social structures that generate the circumstances in which ambivalence is embedded (Merton 1976, 6–7). The core type of sociological ambivalence puts contradictory demands upon the occupants of a status in a particular social relation. Since these norms cannot be simultaneously expressed in behaviour, they come to be expressed in an oscillation of behaviors (Merton 1976, 8).

In the context of modernity, ambivalence is associated with fragmentation and failure of manageability. Zygmunt Bauman defined ambivalence as the possibility of assigning an object or an event to more than one category and views it as a language-specific disorder, with its main symptom being the acute discomfort we feel when we are unable to read the situation properly and to choose between alternative actions (Bauman 1991, 1, 12). Those who have detailed knowledge of geographical maps and the economic history of Ukraine or have done exhaustive research of the conflicting accounts on the current situation end up developing symptoms of ambivalence. Bauman lists ambivalence among “the tropes of the ‘other’ of Order: ambiguity, uncertainty, unpredictability, illogicality, irrationality, ambivalence, brought about by modernity with its desire to organise and to design” (Bauman 1991, 7). Ambivalence thus implies a form of disorder and negativity. In my view, ambivalence can be singled out from Bauman’s list for its bi-polarity, oscillating duality and the relative clarity of polar positions.

I note the clear visions represented by the White House and the Kremlin, even if they leave me feeling schizophrenic. Russia has gone anti-American yet again, but with a passion as if it is the first time. The United State’s approach toward Russia, as Andrew Wilson points out, reflects traditional concerns, even phobias, that are not based on an adequate understanding of the country, in part because Russia has ceased to be a focus of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. approach to Ukraine is probably even less informed, if one follows that logic.

These irreconcilable visions constitute thesis and antithesis that co-exist without a possibility of synthesis, yet without an uncertainty as to what they are. The catch is that the clarity of polarized positions does not help in dealing with the complexities at hand. An adequate understanding of the situation in Ukraine, in my view, is unachievable without complicating matters, viewing modern Ukraine in the context of its geographical, historical, economic, and political bi-polarity and without understanding the clash between the completely different modus operandi of Ukraine and Russia vis-a-vis Europe.

The “Open Secrets” of the Ukrainian Sistema

In psychoanalysis, ambivalence is often associated with ambiguity, but the differences are significant. First, ambivalence is a bi-polar concept, not multi-polar as is the case with ambiguity. Its poles (thesis and anti-thesis) are defined and there is little uncertainty as to what these poles, or co-existing views, attitudes, and beliefs are. The uncertainty is created by the unpredictability of their actualization. While ambiguity is best illustrated by shifting centers of power and political influences (as represented by the EU multi-polar model and positions of its individual members on sanctions), ambivalence is an outcome of conflicting constraints.

The ambivalence of the Ukrainian elite can be defined as substantive ambivalence (they are Russian speaking, Russian educated, and Russian thinking individuals, while fighting their own background), functional ambivalence (they criticize and attack the system that they themselves had been an integral part of), and normative ambivalence (they commit to pro-democratic values that oppose their political behaviour, for example, their position on the EU membership goes contrary to their business interests).

The ambivalence of the Ukrainian elite is distinct from duplicity, from the deliberate deceptiveness in behaviour or speech, or from double-dealing. When molded by clashing constraints, ambivalence can result in the ability for doublethink (the illogical logic), dual functionality (functionality of the dysfunctional), and double standards (for us and for them). Ambivalence is best understood through the paradoxes of modernity, such as the role of hackers in advancing cybersecurity, for example, or the elites that propagate democracy and rule of law but are ready to use any amount of force to maintain themselves in power, as Vladimir Pastukhov argues.

Living with Ambivalence

My take on Ukraine evolves from my understanding of sistema, a network-based system of governance in Russia, which operates behind the facades of formal institutions. One “open secret” of the Ukrainian sistema is that it has been unable to serve its own reproduction: in short, elites simply have grabbed too much. I agree with Wilson’s framing of Maidan as “anti-sistema” forces and his argument that people want to reboot the system but don’t have methods for doing so.

The other “open secret,” however, is that ex-Maidans and Maidans-to-be are unable to make a fundamental change: sistema has gone but long live sistema! This points to a certain grip, if not effectiveness, of sistema forces, even where weakened by violence and its own protagonists.

The bad apples vs. bad barrel dilemma of the Ukrainian governance system, sometimes referred to as kleptocracy, cannot be resolved in a non-ambivalent way. It is not the question of changing all the apples (people of the former sistema), or of changing the barrel (the regime). Living with ambivalence will remain the name of the game until Ukraine becomes capable of sustaining itself as an independent economic unity. In the last twenty-five years, there has been very little progress in this direction. The tragedies of the 2014 military confrontations in east Ukraine have made the future of Ukraine even more difficult.

Alena Ledeneva is Professor of Politics and Society, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. She is also chairs the pillar on the Impact of Corruption for the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project

References

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1991. Modernity and Ambivalence. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Merton, Robert K. 1976. Sociological Ambivalence and Other Essays. New York: Free Press.

Yurchak, Alexei. 1997. “The Cynical Reason of Late Socialism: Power, Pretense, and the Anekdot.” Public Culture 9, no. 2: 161–88.

Lessons from Sochi: getting civil society into the games

by: Niklas Kossow

“The mission of the IOC is to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead theOlympic Movement. The IOC’s role is: to encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues…to promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries”– Olympic Charter, Rules 2.13 and 2.14

Once upon a time, Akhmed Bilalov was a successful businessman and deputy head of the Russian Olympic committee. His brother, Magomed was not only commissioned with the construction of the Krasnaya Polyana skiing resort, but also received 100% funding for the project from Russian state-owned banks. Business was booming for the Bilalov brothers, until President Vladimir Putin visited the resort in February 2013, criticising the quality of the construction work. In the next months, both brothers were charged with misuse of Olympic construction funds and fled the country. This is but one of countless tales of corruption from the Sochi Games, which will be remembered largely for incredibly high costs, disregard for human rights and the environment. Unfortunately, civil society voices were largely shut out of the planning process for Sochi. If they had been involved, would coverage of the games have been different?

Anti-corruption research has shown a positive link between an active civil society and levels of corruption, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Civil society actors are independent and represent citizens who want to have their voice heard. As independent actors, they can help prevent graft in providing oversight that is independent from private interests and state interference.

Before Sochi even won the bid to host the games, environmental activists urged the International Olympic Committee to reject the bid based on the environmental damage it would cause the Western Caucasus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but their pleas were ignored. Just before the start of the games, Transparency International Russia published a report, “Olympic Sized Corruption”, explaining in detail where funds were misused. Russian activists have exposed corruption as the main reason for the bloated cost of the Olympic Games, despite the increasingly oppressive responses of Vladimir Putin’s regime. The games were originally budgeted at $12billion, but the final cost was closer to $50billion. The amount lost to embezzlement has been estimated at anywhere from $18billion$30billion of the total expense.

Given their claims to support environmentally sustainable games, the behavior of the IOC with regards to the Sochi Olympics is disappointing. If they are serious about future games reflecting the true nature of the Olympic charter, then civil society involvement and independent oversight has to be one of the conditions for awarding the games. The Sydney 2000 games proved to be a successful example of how increased transparency and civil society involvement can make a difference. Environmental groups were involved in the planning process and took part in making the Sydney Olympics the first “green games”.[i]

The Sochi Olympics is definitely not the first, nor is it likely to be the last example of corruption, environmental degradation and human rights violations during the planning of a mega event. The run-up to the Rio 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games have already seen major street protests and now a workers’ strike, respectively.  The IOC recently announced that it intends to review its host-city selection process, and has promised to take a more active role in Rio 2016 preparations, but they have yet to acknowledge the value of increased civil society involvement. It is not just the IOC who looks the other way when selecting a host city. FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup to despite reports of numerous human rights violations against migrant construction workers.[ii] By insisting on the inclusion of citizen voices in the planning of Olympics, the IOC would get closer to honouring the terms of their own charter as well as provide a good example for other international sports organizations.

Niklas Kossow is a Master’s of Public Policy candidate at the Hertie School of Governance. 


[i] Kearins, K. and Pavlovich, K. 2002. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management 9, 157–169

[ii] For more information on this, see: ERCAS Working paper No. 40, “Corruption in Qatar? The Link between the Governance Regime and Anti-Corruption Indicators” by Lina Khatib, and an Amnesty International spotlight on migrant worker abuse: “The Dark Side of Migration.”

Misconceptions Distort Views of the Crisis in Crimea

by: Alina Mungiu-Pippidi

1. Russia wants Crimea. For this reason, it invaded and manipulated the referendum.

This strikes me as false. About ten years ago when I put together indicators for the UNDP to warn of a potential crisis in Crimea, the ingredients of the current situation were already present: local authorities who preferred Russia to the Ukrainian Orange government, Kiev’s weak influence over the peninsula, strange paramilitaries registered as NGOs and training in shooting (referred to as the “Cossacks”, whom I had seen thirteen years before in the Transnistrian war), and a Russian-speaking population of recent settlers who saw Russia as their protector and who feared Crimean Tatar’s land claims (restitution demands for property confiscated when they were deported by Stalin).

Local authorities, whom I interviewed at the time, expressed displeasure that Russia was unwilling to have them join. Russia did not want them because they were far more useful as a threat should Ukraine go astray, a potential Transnistria or South Ossetia. Meanwhile, Russian oligarchs bought the best real estate and tourists flooded the coast. They thronged to the site of Vladimir the Great’s baptism at Chersonesos (an old Byzantine city, now merely a Sevastopol suburb), which in the nineteenth century had been canonized as a cathedral of the nation, thus indoctrinating people to the core with the idea that this is the cradle of all Russian orthodoxy. From a nearby hill one could admire the Russian navy at anchor, bearing odd resemblance to the Second World War movies we watched on Russian TV before 1989, but with no formidable rivals in sight.

Russia already held Crimea in all but name. It just needed a call to provoke the referendum, which could also have been stalled with another call – only the second has never been made.  Russia does not want Crimea, or Kharkov or Donetsk. Russia simply wants Ukraine, so it had to prevent it from joining  the EU, the same way it wanted to prevent Armenia in 2013 (and succeeded) and Moldova and Georgia (and so far failed).

2. We do not change borders in Europe

While the discourse against changing borders is perfectly legitimate, it is not factually correct to say that borders do not change in Europe or that altering borders is not accepted. In the course of EU enlargement borders did change dramatically. Slovenia and Croatia, two secessionist countries recognized by Germany, were allowed to pursue their course without being dragged down by the Milosevic government in Belgrade. Kosovo was then recognized despite formal Serbian opposition, which allowed both Kosovo and Serbia to move on. With Serbia now negotiating to join the EU, the Balkans are finally reaching equilibrium. Were Scotland to secede from the UK at the end of this summer, we would probably look for a legal solution to keep it in the EU, but we would definitely recognize it. And Scotland’s borders were not designed by Stalin and Khrushchev as are Moldova’s, Georgia’s and Ukraine’s.

Presuming that the EU would ever enlarge into Stalin’s borders is preposterous. Nobody would suggest bringing in these reluctant regions, inhabited to a great extent by the Red Army and KGB pensioners, such as Transnistria or Crimea. These borders were artificially created so to accommodate a bomb. It might prove better to detonate the bombs than letting them explode at their will. Why keep entire countries hostage due to them? The discourse that “territorial integrity” is the most important value to protect here is wrong. What matters is the will of people to determine their future themselves.

Ukrainians in major cities want to join Europe. Crimeans want to be part of Russia. Rather than blocking one or the other, we should concede that Ukraine will never join the EU with Crimea included – or Moldova with Transnistria. Plans to unify them will lead nowhere and should be replaced with backup plans to help them separate peacefully if this is what they want. Can we discuss in earnest during the next European Parliament elections where the Eastern border should stop?

3. This is a conflict of interests between East and West, between Russia and Europe

While the conflict may be escalating because of the way Mr. Putin thinks (it is hard to dance tango with someone who thinks you are doing the box step), this is, however, not how the conflict started. As Europeans, we have never wanted Ukraine to join the EU.  We are aware of the artificial borders of this state, which is forcing the cohabitation of two different nations, a new Ukrainian one (which turned out to be quite impressive) and an old Soviet one (widespread across much of the former Soviet space). Ukraine is a also a failed transition by many accounts: It is a crony capitalist state if ever there was one, with corruption lines cutting across pro-Russian-Western camps there. The attractive democratic path does not have clear parties to represent it yet – and its proponents know that. The EU has not been good at curbing crony capitalism and democracy. Just look how little Greece, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria have evolved since joining.  Thus, Ukraine has always been the bridge too far.

But neither can we stand idle forever and listen to the Russian doctrine of legitimate domination in their neighboring countries. Their bullying of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and now Ukraine has gone too far. This is a conflict between democracy and the right of people to decide wherever they want their countries to go. Between our “empire”, reluctant to expand and Russia’s invasive behavior, our old enlargement policy has us paralyzed. The time has now come to defend those countries against Russia by other means, to convey the clear single message that we do have foreign policy tools other than enlargement, and that these countries can have Western (EU and US) protection even if they are not, and may never be, EU members. These countries want Europe, not the other way around. And if Russia wants them it had better developed an attractive model as the EU has done. By this, I mean one that would attract more than Belarus.

Meanwhile the situation has never been as dangerous since the aborted coup d’etat in Moscow in summer 1991. How did we win that one? The people of Moscow won it for us, and the incompetence of putschists. Let us at least show more dignity than we did then, when some EU member countries rushed to recognize the generals.

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi is Professor of Democracy Studies at the Hertie School and chairs the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State Building Research. She consulted for UNDP’s early warning system in Crimea and the World Bank in the Caucasus. Her research interests include Europeanization, state building, and institutional transformation.

This piece previously appeared on the Hertie School of Governance’s European Elections Blog: “Decision 2014”:  http://www.hertie-school.org/blog/misconceptions-distort-views-ukrainian-crisis-crimea/

ERCAS Hosts Berlin ECFR Scorecard Launch

ERCAS and the Hertie School of Governance hosted the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) for the Berlin launch of the 2014 edition of their annual European foreign policy scorecard. ERCAS Director Professor Alina Mungiu-Pippidi introduced the event by discussing inadequate European maneuvering vis-à-vis Ukraine.

Professor Mungiu-Pippidi evoked the work of ERCAS with Ukrainian civil society coalition CHESNO and the recurrent question on the lips of young anti-corruption activists there: how many Orange revolutions does it take to get to the EU? “We have to consider what we can offer people who buy into the European normative discourse,” she said. “Nothing is more dangerous than to give the go ahead to people when you know there is no cavalry to back them up, and real politik will decide in the end. You can have one Orange revolution per week then and it’s still insufficient.”

The scorecard grades European foreign policy performance in 66 different areas: relations with the US, China, Russia, Wider Europe, Middle East/North Africa, as well as European performance in crisis management and multilateral institutions. Individual countries are also singled out as “leaders” or “slackers” depending on whether or not they help or hinder Europe’s overall interests. One impetus for starting the scorecard was to prompt a wider discussion about European foreign policy, beyond usual policy circles, and to track progress after the Lisbon treaty, however, as editorial director Hans Kundani noted, the “leaders” and “slackers” section provokes more debate than the rest of the scorecard.

On balance how effective was European foreign policy in 2013? ECFR gives Europe a B- average for relations with most regions, except Russia and claims “Foreign policy is back on the agenda.”  ECFR highlighted foreign policy successes last year in Iran and Kosovo as well as relative failures in Syria and worsening relations with Russia, and ranked France and the UK amongst the “leaders” and Germany and Greece amongst the “slackers.”

Much of the discussion in Berlin focused on Germany’s foreign policy role in the Ukraine and why the country found itself this year atop the list of “slackers”. The scorecard noted the federal elections last year as well as the fact that Germany undermined European attempts to reduce dependence on Russian oil as key reasons why it failed to impress this year.

To read more about the ECFR scorecard or do download a copy, please click here: http://www.ecfr.eu/scorecard/2014