How will corruption evolve in 2024?


Every year on December 9 the world celebrates International Anticorruption Day. This is the annual moment to review the state of global corruption, as well as the best opportunity to reflect on the poverty of our review tools. It has always been a challenge to measure corruption, but to measure corruption across time is the ultimate challenge. Another year of struggle against corruption is coming to a pass. Are we nearer to the target? Has any country graduated to good governance, in the ‘green’ area of the upper third of the global ranking? Has any country already in that area experienced some backsliding? Are some countries closer to reaping the benefits of many years of reforms or, on the contrary, does the world risk losing more countries to state capture?

As perception indicators are not optimal for assessing change from one year to another, ERCAS devised a methodology to both capture change – and lack of it- and explain it. A snapshot for 2023 can be found as the Index of Public Integrity (IPI), based on scientifically validated indicators, which proxy the causes (enablers and disablers) of corruption. Then, as indicators always have a certain time lag, the trend analysis is completed with an analysis of recent facts. All the data can be found on Except for the countries presented in the front table, all the others are forecast to be stationary. The six indicators used for the IPI 2023 are:


Administrative transparency De facto transparency of public contracts, business register, land cadaster and auditor general reports, as reported step by step and link by link in the T-index.
Online services The extent to which governments offer online services, as featured in the UN Survey. (Replaced Administrative burden based on the World Bank Doing Business)
Budget transparency The extent to which budget proposals and previous-year expenditures are and have been made public, using a fraction of the Open Budget Index survey.
Judicial independence The extent to which the judiciary is autonomous from private interest (including by government officials) as in the Global Competitiveness Report survey by the World Economic Forum
(Digital citizenship)
Household broadband subscriptions and Facebook users per country measure the capacity of civil society
Freedom of the press Yearly indicator including economic and physical pressure on media


As Facebook users’ data, which is a component of the e-citizens, changes coverage across years, we use only Internet household connections to measure e-citizens for the forecast. As administrative transparency is a new indicator, with direct observations of every country’s online transparency, it is also not included in the forecast trends monitoring (just the IPI), but as an additional weight step. The step-by-step methodology can be read here.

Our IPI and forecast methodology thus provide three pictures:

1.   A snapshot- How the world is in the 2022-2023 IPI and why. Users can read the IPI by country and compare it against its region and income group on every component.

2.   A motion picture based on a time series- how countries changed over the past ten years and where they would likely be next year.

3.   A diagnosis – Open the forecast country page to see the individual trends, diagnosis and explicit legend to understand where the country is on corruption risk, what it could do to improve, and where it will be next year.




  • Every year, state capture is subverted by the silent but unstoppable rise of global digital citizenship, which signifies aggregate demand for good governance, understood as fair and equal treatment by a government for its subjects, with no privileged groups or citizens, enjoying a different status due to connections to the government — or bribes. Almost in every country of the world, the number of e-citizens is on the rise.
  • Corruption fights back, even against the most successful judicial crackdowns, with former successful countries losing battles against impunity in Latin America, Africa and the Balkans. Anti-privilege reforms promoting ethical universalism, and not high-profile trials, thus offer the most sustainable path to good governance, as success stories prove.
  • An unprecedented number of insurgencies, coups and wars are taking state capture to the next violent stage and threaten what have been incipient promising trends in  have also been under threat but give signs of resilience and recovery.
  • As Estonia moved up and the United States down, Estonia is now ahead of the United States as number 5 in the IPI ranking (1-10, with 10 best integrity in the IPI), after Denmark, Norway, Finland and New Zealand, which lead the top.
  • Digital trends (Internet and social media connected citizens, online services) are all steadily rising, while political indicators (judicial independence, freedom of the press) are doing badly in most of the world and worsening. The political trends cancel out the positive tech trends, and growing demand in the form of civil society combined with increased repression of the press and civil society is likely to lead to much instability wherever civil society reaches some critical mass – for instance, in the capital cities. The fall of captors in Sri Lanka may be followed by many others, but the success of the revolutionary path to good governance depends on the degree of institutionalization of political alternatives to follow. Not many political coalitions for good governance, unified by a single program on eliminating privilege and increasing transparency, exist around the world. If the good political society does not associate with a clear purposive movement, populists will remain what they have been for a while now – the chief political winners due to discontent with corruption.
  • Unless the United States solves its leadership integrity problems and is back convincingly as the needed global anticorruption coalition leader, global standards will sink even lower in 2024, and global anticorruption will become just another tool of a new cold war, with accusations of political instrumentalization and double standards flourishing. A phase of global moral anarchy with few successful transformations might follow as countries increasingly realign on grounds other than public integrity reputation.


More on

Direct queries to professors Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnston at


Berlin-Roma-Bucharest, December 2023


Transparency in the Time of War – a Survey for 143 countries

In 2021, we measured for the first time by direct observation the state of transparency for accountability in the new T-index (computer-mediated government transparency) for 129 countries. The methodology and the first results appeared in Regulation and Governance in 2022 and a new webpage created a fully transparent index, where every item could be traced back to the original webpage in one click, and readers had a feedback button to signal errors. We hoped thus to bring a contribution to a new generation of transparent government indices, sheltered from both gaming and undue influence and crowdsourced by governments, media and civil society.

This new 2023 report covers 143 countries and a very different world from the pilot project we ran in 2021, as global trends of democracy backsliding and violence have become all too visible. And still, the public good of transparency is still there and citizens still need to hold their governments accountable even during wartime. Removing countries engaged in war from the T-index would be an artificial way to show the world better than it is: we do not aim for that and although we considered this option, we eliminated it in the end. As war, in one form or another, has become a part of the lives of more countries than the ones directly engaged in it in 2023, we will also show the performance of countries under war in this report, with the clear understanding that causes might be beyond their control. Beyond the loss of life and infrastructure, war destroys transparency built by many governments, sometimes even generations, and its consequences need to be seen as well.


Read our T-index 2023 report: TRANSPARENCY IN THE TIME OF WAR


From immemorial times, war has created an environment favouring propaganda, not transparency – and corruption, not public integrity. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916, 19,240 British men lost their lives in what remained the heaviest loss of human life in one day in the First World War. But the British media made headlines claiming that the Allies’ casualties were not heavy, as it operated under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), passed a week after Britain declared war on Germany. It was not even the direct censorship under DORA that did the most harm, but the direct participation of the chief media owners in a propaganda national machine, agreeing that during war transparency needs to be put on hold.

In 2023, not only Russia and Ukraine are at war, but significant parts of the world have become embattled. Authoritarian countries have long promoted acts to limit foreign influence in their public lives: these days democratic governments are following suit. Government propaganda, which is the opposite of government transparency, as it chiefly means misinformation and misrepresentation from official sources does never seem more justified and acceptable than during a conflict with the propaganda of an enemy. Digitalization has also proved a double-edged knife, as the same miraculous smartphone that we praised for making every citizen a watchdog of the government made every person a target. Public information can become a liability when used by a country’s enemies against it, and promoters of malware have increased in numbers and activity, turning the Internet into a battlefield.

This report surveys the current state of government transparency worldwide, offering a real transparency measure for 143 countries, based on a survey of both de facto (publication of information on the web) and de jure (legal commitments) transparency. It is the second full edition of the T-index, after the first 129-country survey (2022). The T-index fulfilment score (% of maximum transparency possible) measures – by facts and not by perceptions – the distance from where a country is and where it should be on real transparency for accountability, using the Sustainable Development Goal 16 and the United Nations Convention against Corruption criteria. The webpage thus offers an assessment of the extent to which each country fulfils the transparency benchmarks and allows its comparison against its continent and the world.

The global average in total fulfilment is at 61%, with the world performing far better on commitments to transparency (77% on de jure) and worse on real transparency (54% on de facto).  With 80% total fulfilment and 73% de facto, the EU and North America lead in transparency, although the internal variation across this developed region is significant. With a de facto index of 36%, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) does not even meet half of its de jure commitments, although it has progressed in the last year. The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has a smaller implementation gap (32 % de facto versus 52 % de jure), but the total fulfilment score is lower compared to SSA (38% versus 47%). MENA is the poorest performer in the world. ECA (Eastern Europe and Central Asia) is above the global average at 66%, followed by Asia-Pacific and Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) at 62%.  The situation of every tool monitored can be observed in the figure. A full report can be downloaded from below.


T-Index 2023 – De facto by components

Legend: % represents the number of countries which fulfil the criteria fully or in part. N=143.


The cases of Ukraine and Russia show what a terrible challenge war brings to transparency. Ukraine, a global transparency leader prior to the war, has had to suspend many of its transparent practices. The report discusses at length the situation of Prozorro, Ukraine’s public procurement innovative monitoring platform. In the case of Russia, an earlier legacy of transparency has been gradually shrinking due to the expansion of areas controlled by the military establishment and the need to hide the financial and asset declarations of some officials targeted by sanctions. The report uses transparent sources to track the impact of war and sanctions on the oligarchies of Russia and Ukraine. The conclusion so far is that Ukrainian oligarchs have been far more hurt by the conflict than Russian ones: some of the latter have in fact profited due to the energy price rise and despite sanctions. But other documented profiteers of the war exist in industries such as energy and defense also in Western countries.

Finally, taking into consideration the freedom to access, coverage and functionalities of the webpages, the report flags some best examples of online tools which could serve as models for other countries.

For a clean and sustainable reconstruction of Ukraine

European Research Centre for Anticorruption and State Building (ERCAS) | |

We need to collect needs based on multiple sources, involve civil society from planning to audit, set targets for both the public procurement process and outcomes and tie them to the performance evaluation of a newly trained generation of public managers in charge of allocating and managing reconstruction funds.


Nothing creates more opportunities for corruption than war. But a war where foreign money pours in is bound to multiply exponentially such opportunities, especially in an already enabling environment. An estimation based on Forbes billionaires database by The Economist magazine found that in 2021, Russia topped the world when comparing crony versus non-crony sectors’ contribution to GDP: but Ukraine also came in fifth place, nearing 40% of Russia’s bad performance (see Figure 2). However, Ukraine had embarked in a variety of serious reforms prior to the Russian invasion (see Figure 1): but none triggered the self-sustainable virtuous circle able to clean the country, in a manner similar to the earlier success stories of Estonia and Georgia. Hence the lack of popularity of both Presidents Poroshenko and Zelensky with Ukrainian civil society before the war.

This short text presents five clear issues that the reconstruction has to grapple with and indicates the type of solutions. This is not a detailed report, but simply a statement of principles needed for a sound reconstruction.


Figure 1. Enablers and disablers of corruption in Ukraine 2021.


Issue number one is how to organize an evidence-based needs assessment. Public procurement is often corrupted before it has even taken place, by discretionary purchases or distorted terms of reference. A central system based on a validation mechanism (at least two sources) and a decentralized and plural data collection, relying on transparently published needs statement at the local level may alleviate a part of the risk. Due consideration needs to be given to avoid the reconstruction turning into either a Samaritan dilemma, where the purchases are driven by the needs of the suppliers rather than the ones of the buyers, or a locally captured process, where higher kickbacks from more concentrated rents get priority over the rest. At such a scale of destruction, this is no easy task. This is why the collection of information should rely on civil society (in the broadest sense- including the private sector and communities, not only NGOs), on local government and central government, with findings triangulated in a central mechanism (as an online map with various categories). This can be completed with special reports on specialized areas commissioned to international NGOs which have experience working in disaster areas of developing countries.  Development agencies such as the World Bank or UNDP could contribute to the centralization of the needs assessment.


Figure 2. The Economist crony capitalism assessment 2021.


Issue number two is how centralized should the reconstruction process be. It is natural that the government of Ukraine wants to have ownership of the process, but we know from international experience that the ownership that guards against corruption is one exercised by the whole society, not just the recipient country’s government. The proposals of civil society to create a central purchasing body run by NGOs, both national and international are too radical to have a realistic choice of being accepted. However, a middle ground exists. The model, albeit just as a starting point, are the integrity pacts that the European Commission funds to enable civil society: Transparency International and national anticorruption NGOs- to audit the procurement process at the national level. As it stands, the model (funded by DG Regio) is a good idea poorly put into practice. The governments select what contracts civil society can audit (therefore setting aside those that matter to them), and the process is technologically primitive, based on a few observations instead of the observation of all data and follow-up of red flags. For Ukraine, which already has pro-Zorro, a far better process can be constructed, where civil society is involved from the writing of terms of reference to the allocation, negotiation, signing and execution. Such a process would also create a sustainable model of good governance where representatives of the entire community would be involved on a permanent basis in procurement decisions. Central purchasing bodies tend to reduce corruption risk, but the involvement of civil society, especially the one with relevant knowledge and representation (geographical or sectorial) would be in this case the key to building sustainable good governance in Ukraine, both at the central and local level.

Issue number three is how to shift from post-factum anticorruption – after the corruption act has already taken place- to preventive anticorruption, which deters corruption from the onset. No successful control of corruption has ever worked post-factum except where corruption was already exceptional and isolated and public integrity the norm. Convictions in Courts take years even in countries where they happen, and they can get reversed: recovering assets is highly expensive and takes years. Turning judiciaries which are themselves problems into solutions to corruption is highly unrealistic, although building a non-corrupt and effective judiciary is a worthy goal- in itself. Ukraine has already invested too much in the top architecture, with very high political risks as we have seen (US presidential candidates fighting over who gets appointed general prosecutor in Ukraine!). Ukrainians proved great solidarity and resilience after the invasion, showing that the main institutions work, and the public cooperates with the state as in a high-trust society. The existential threat helped the nation get together. So, an anticorruption focused on the past, on repression rather than prevention would not achieve control of corruption but might bring political risks that Ukraine can do without. After the war ends, the anticorruption of Ukraine should focus on reforms: to eliminate the sources of economic privileges, the monopolies and oligopolies of every sector rather than spend years putting in jail those who profited in earlier times from such political opportunities. Ukraine needs sustainability and national consensus, and profiteers of earlier times who survive the war can always be overtaxed to bring their contribution. But the fight against them should not absorb the core resources and energy.

Issue number four is how to achieve this functioning, self-driven prevention system. Ukraine has previously done many reforms: but, prior to the invasion, the Ukrainian civil society complained that while transparency is perfect, it only allows seeing how corrupt the country is because accountability is missing. Figure 1. shows that Ukraine has indeed arrived on top of the world when administrative transparency was concerned. But that is not enough. Anticorruption is like a bicycle, which manages to stand as long as it runs: but its separate pieces are worthless if they do not amount to a full-running bike. Transparency is only one wheel: accountability is another, and different parts of the government are supposed to deliver these different wheels. Pro-Zorro was a model monitoring system of procurement when e-procurement was concerned. But the responsibility and accountability of procurement are not with the public procurement agency (PPA). Nowhere do PPAs manage the last part of the cycle, accountability, which belongs to the government. The role of the monitoring agency is to show exactly what buyers (contracting authorities) from the government fail to reach the targets of competitiveness, value for money and integrity: an administrative sanctions mechanism needs to be in place to discipline the buyers, who are appointed by the government. The sanctioning is generally done by auditors when finding procedural problems and Ukraine did not have a high rate of sanctions prior to the war. In 2021, 265 officials were subject to disciplinary sanctions, of which 45 were dismissed from their positions and 274 were subject to financial liability from the 1,500 enterprises, institutions and organizations that were inspected by Ukrainian State Audit Agency. However, we know that favouritism in public procurement is not always openly illegal: single bidding, the main indicator of corruption, that the European Commission has now used to motivate the sanctioning of Hungary, is legal in most countries (meaning that the bidding process is not suspended and reorganized if only one bid is presented). What is needed is that the government itself sets targets (as the EU Public Procurement webpage indicates) and sanctions its PP buyers if they do not meet them, even in the absence of evidence of fraud in order to ensure the integrity and value for money of the process. A simple rule for integrity could be that no bidding is allowed outside pro-Zorro, that the admissible single bidding is allowed only on the EU-27 average (currently very high at around 20%, see Figure 3) and that all single bids instances are automatically audited with priority.

How many public officials were sanctioned or dismissed due to their incapacity to meet the standards of an effective and clean public procurement? An effective prevention system is not based on a case-by-case investigation, followed by prosecution, but by the existence of clear targets and their enforcement by monitoring followed by administrative sanctions. Aside from transparency (pro-Zorro), and accountability (PP targets enforced by administrative sanctions), the system needs some Government Buying Standards to define product specifications, including price, which should be mandatory for the central purchasing agency and other buyers.[1] Seeing that due to the war the Ukrainian government had to even fix some prices the development of a permanent cost standard unit would answer more needs than one.


Figure 3. Red flag single bidding across the European Union Member States
Legend : average marked in red


The final issue is about the human resources needed for a clean and effective management of reconstruction at all levels (from national, down to towns and villages). In environments such as Ukraine (countries with similar corruption indicators in times of normal, non-war situations) the administration is very politicized: who appoints those directly in charge of procurement purchases, for instance, decides de facto who wins and who loses a bidding process. Those who should disburse administrative sanctions are in fact those who decide who wins and who loses. Where should the human resource come from for the reconstruction money to avoid a return to the vicious circle where the principal and the agent collude, with the result of government favouritism? Aside from the macro-organization solutions suggested here, a small share of reconstruction funds should go into creating new project management procurement experts and auditors, by training a new force of civil servants and civil society as integrity compliance officers who would then become the backbone of an integrity system. This reconstruction is not business as usual: and neither should be those who work for it.


[1] Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. (2017). Sustainable procurement: the Government Buying Standards (GBS). Available at

Will the current crisis enable better governance, or hinder it?

The forecast of good governance on this page, the first one ever of its kind (hence it should be seen as work in progress), has come out at the very beginnings of an unprecedented destabilizing crisis for this century. It is fair to ask oneself therefore how the prognoses here will be affected.

Many positive things exist in crises such as the current one. Among others, we can count more global solidarity, more understanding of inequities of globalization and structural inequalities, and more acknowledgment of insufficient progress in recent years in delivering equal treatment and opportunity. Ethical universalism is an unfinished business even in the most advanced democracies, and there is more awareness of that than before. However, violence and anarchy are on the rise mostly in free societies, which have done the most to enable ethical universalism, and where democratic avenues to solve grievances do exist. Partisanship has crossed any limits of acceptable behavior and has become really problematic sectarianism. The center is squeezed, and civilization and civility with it.

What our science tells us is that political instability does not breed good governance, however: it’s not merit which triumphs when violence is on the rise.

It is perhaps more likely that Mr. Trump will lose elections: however, the reform-minded President Macron may also go, too, as it showed in local elections this year, and the main profiteer is the right-wing party of Madame Le Pen. The Chinese whistleblowers of the Coronavirus have not been promoted to top party hierarchy in the ministry of health: instead, they are dead and China represses Hong Kong freedom fighters with little hindrance from the international community. This is not surprising, as on some days it seems that the countries where democracy has been born and evolved ever since, even if not to perfection- US and UK- are more problematic than Russia, China, Turkey and North Korea. In the latter countries, where there is no consultation at all, nobody storms public buildings and statues whose fate should be decided by all inhabitants of a city after debate, not just angry groups. The very essential feature enabling such behavior in democratic countries- freedom and the consequent lack of fear from repression- is taken for granted increasingly. In previous times when this happened, the rights of citizenry suffered, because the absence of violence of every kind is indispensable for liberal democracies to be able to ensure rights. Populists will have an easier time rallying people around law and order if equality promoters equally promote violence and unilateralism. The most productive approach to fighting corruption as a main curtailer of individual rights might suffer in such a context.

The first amendment to the forecast is that the more political violence grows, the less positive predictions come true and more countries come under threat of losing what they have acquired, the good governance fundamentals: freedom of thought, equality before the law and the capacity to mediate between different interests through debate and limited terms popularly elected office.

The second amendment refers to the important role of technology. While in recent years we have seen intense mobilization against social media because it enables the worst social groups’ instincts- groupthink, mobbing, selective exposure, scapegoating, trolling and harassment- our research group has continued to defend it as a force for good. Social media enable people to monitor their government, to rally and protest, and such collective action is indispensable for good governance. Research has shown, however, that social media algorithms promote aggressivity online because it sells more advertising, and groups such as the Yellow Vest are profiting from it. While we are very proud to live in an era on unprecedented technological development we see daily that this does little to deter people from endorsing identity politics, and the resulting collectivism and intergroup conflict. None of these help ethical universalism, a society where everybody is treated fairly and equally, with no difference due to particular characteristics of ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other difference. Technology helps only if it remains a force for enlightenment- hence our component of public integrity index, enlightened citizens, those endowed with Internet household connections and associated with others through social media. We still have a strong association between their numbers and the quality of governance. But will this correlation hold if trolls and mobs become stronger than ethical universalism promoters on the Internet? In our forecast we have seen progress over the last ten years on both sides- governments have become more digital, and citizens have become better at participating. This development has resulted in mostly incremental progress so far- indeed, there is no substantial case based on digital progress alone, not even Estonia, although the progress of cases like Brazil or North Macedonia is based in part on digitalization. While we are still believers in what technology can do for good governance and solving collective action problems, technology has to stay a force for civilization and dialogue if it is to fulfill its potential.

So far, threats for good governance overshadow opportunities from the current crisis. But this Is not over and the jury is out still.

Russian Federation

The Russian Federation has been redressing over the last decade from a situation where its governance was largely inferior to its human development index. The redress comes in particular from administrative and transparency reforms, as well as e-government. The most dismal performance remains on freedom of the press, e-citizenship and judicial independence, where it is at the bottom of its income group. In particular the lagging of e-citizenship, where resources would exist for a far better performance shows that Russia chooses to develop state capacity without investing in societal human resources. Popular demand is still insufficient to speed up its transformation. However, quality of governance varies greatly across different geographical regions.

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.

Academic Dishonesty or Corrupt Values: the Case of Russia

Academic corruption in Russia is extensively spread; it is not an isolated phenomenon. Rather, academic corruption is tightly embedded into the general corruption in society: in politics, business, and in everyday life. This paper illustrates some common types of cheating and corruption as well as the motives of the involved actors for applying, accepting, ignoring and/or pretending to ignore these activities.

Why is corruption in higher education so prevalent? The improper dependences of all the involved actors might it possible. Compared to people without a university education, graduates have better chances on the job market. Some university lecturers might expect bribes in order to return the investments they have made into their own studies. Other university lecturers might water down their requirements and try to be more tolerant, especially to students who are looking for a formal certificate rather than for an education, or who might need to have more time for other activities. If university administrators would receive the same budget from the state, the reduction of staff and lecturers would be not necessary.

Why are studies on corruption in education so important? Younger generations are expected to make changes rather than continuing the old systems. During their studies, young people complete their socialization by acquiring, among other things, more techniques of corrupt behavior and a tolerance for corruption. In Russia more than 80% of all young people go on to university and almost all of them finish it. Over the next decades, the spread of corruption in the country might be forecast. This might be very destructive, both on the short-term and the long-term perspectives. The consequences for academia, business and society might be dire.

Doublethink, Russian Style

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.

“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


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.

Institutional performance and social values in Russia

This report focuses on corruption practices in Russia and presents the results of a survey that was conducted between July and November 2013.

The questionnaire was translated into Russian and was adapted slightly after the first five interviews. The interview was time consuming (from 1 to 3 hours) and many respondents became tired very quickly; hence, some coffee/tea breaks were integrated whenever it was possible. The interviews were conducted in such places as homes, workplaces, at a café, and sometimes in a car during a long drive. Some of the questions were not interesting from the viewpoint of respondents, such as the questions about social norms and values (more comments in the text). Some respondents had difficulties in attributing scores to the work of public institutions and the government, especially less educated and/or retired respondents.

The results of the survey conducted in the second half of 2013 provided some information on trust and experiences with local institutions, as well as serious problems in the community, the quality of services provided by institutions and access to these services, and social norms and values.

Comparative country reports on institutional performance Countries: Bosnia, Kosovo, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Tanzania, Turkey.

The report draws on ethnographic research undertaken in 8 countries object of investigation by the WP partners, namely: Italy, Hungary, Bosnia, Russia, Turkey, Kosovo, Tanzania and Mexico. In addition, an additional chapter (Annex 2) will render the case of Japan which will serve as a contrast case on which to assess ideas and practices of governance and institutional performance through an anthropological perspective. The report includes data gathered through a questionnaire survey undertaken, with minor differences, in all the eight countries included in WP4. The data analyzed comparatively refer to three main fields: perceived and experienced performance of local institutions, local problem and resolution ideas, socio- cultural norms and values. We have identified, following the anthropological literature, a number of cultural issues that are in relation with corruption, or with local citizens’ experiences of the functioning of public institutions in their countries. This first deliverable constitutes an attempt to draw some preliminary conclusions on the interaction between socio- cultural features and governance (both as experienced and perceived) which will be further and ethnographically explored in the final deliverable of this Working Package.

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”:

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:

Pages:  1 2 3