Europe’s Burden: Promoting Good Governance Across Borders

The EU is many things: a civilization ideal to emulate, an anchor of geopolitical stabilization, a generous donor, and a history lesson on cooperation across nations. A fixer of national governance problems, however, it is not. In this book, Mungiu-Pippidi investigates the efficacy of the European Union’s promotion of good governance through its funding and conditionalities both within the EU proper and in the developing world. The evidence assembled shows that the idea of European power to transform the quality of governance is largely a myth. From Greece to Egypt and from Kosovo to Turkey, EU interventions in favour of good governance and anti-corruption policy have failed so far to trigger the domestic political dynamic needed to ensure sustainable change. Mungiu-Pippidi explores how we can better bridge the gap between the Europe of treaties and the reality of governance in Europe and beyond. This book will interest students and scholars of comparative politics, European politics, and development studies, particularly those examining governance and corruption.

Reviews for this publication

“A blistering and contrarian critique of EU anti-corruption efforts from one of the field’s leading authorities. Based on extensive quantitative data spanning both EU member states and a large number of the union’s external partners, the book’s findings have troubling implications for the future of EU good governance strategies – and deserve to be considered with the utmost seriousness.”

Richard Youngs – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Europe

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.


Turkey has fast turned from an achiever into a backslider in the last ten years, despite an administration which had made progress on reducing red tape and transparency. The regress is due to the lack of autonomy of the judiciary and the repression of the free press. Both have come first under fire due to top corruption investigations. Turkey is a captured state by a party and its group of businessmen, but being a large and diverse country, with numerous e-citizens and some tradition of autonomy from politics of both administration and army more struggle for return to pluralism and better governance lies ahead.

The Anticorruption Report Vol. 4: Beyond the Panama Papers

The final title in the series The Anticorruption Report covers the most important findings of the five-year-long EU-sponsored ANTICORRP project on corruption and organized crime. How prone to corruption are EU funds? Who wins and who loses the anticorruption fight? And can we have better measurements than people’s perceptions to indicate if corruption changes? This issue introduces a new index of public integrity and a variety of other tools created in the project.

The Anticorruption Report Vol. 4: Beyond the Panama Papers looks at the performance of EU Good Governance Promotion in different countries in the European neighbourhood. Case studies focussing on Spain, Slovakia and Romania are considering the impact of EU structural funds and good governance promotion within the Union. Further chapters looking at Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Tanzania are analysing EU democracy and good governance support in third countries. The report, edited by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Jana Warkotsch offers a comprehensive and overarching look at the successes and pitfalls of the EU’s efforts to democracy promotion and introduces new ways to assess the state of good governance in different countries around the world.

EU Aid to Turkey – Money well spent?

Following the failed coup attempt in Turkey last week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan put increasing pressure on the country’s democratic institutions. The crackdown was not limited to rebelling soliders, but was quickly extended to the judiciary and academia. In total, around 50,000 state employees were rounded up, sacked or suspended.

While this crackdown is unprecented, it is a continuation of many years of Mr Erdogan’s efforts to undermine the democratic order in Turkey and extend his grip on power, as Alina Mungiu-Pippidi pointed out in a recent comment. She questioned whether the EU was right in continuing to send billions of euros in aid to Turkey each year. But how much aid does Turkey really receive from the EU institutions?


Table 1: EU Aid to Turkey 2005 – 2014, in Million US Dollars*

In the ten-year period between 2005 and 2014 alone, EU institutions sent the equivalent of 13.7 billion dollars in aid payments to Turkey. 1.5 billion dollars were directy aimed at improving government and civil society institutions. In the light of the continuing campaign to undermine democratic institutions we have to ask the question if this is money well spent or if it is time for a rethink in EU-Turkey relations.

Turkey aid

Figure 1: EU Aid to Turkey 2005 – 2014, in million US Dollars*

*All data taken from the OECD Query Wizard for International Development Statistics

So far, democracy has not won in Turkey

Those European leaders who rushed to welcome the restoration of a constitutional order in Turkey should think better. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself started the subversion of this particular order a while ago, to little international indignation.

Ahead of the abortive coup in Turkey, the NATO member (and European Union candidate) country could hardly have been called a democracy. Freedom House ranks it as partly free, lacking in civil liberties and, especially, press freedom. Erdogan had already changed the constitution to be elected directly by the people, after ruling the country in various forms since 1996 and repeatedly bending the Constitution. In the last two years, he undertook a series of measures which no democrat would endorse:

  • He removed or replaced prosecutors and judicial police personnel to stop corruption investigations against his family and some ministers close to him, with no protest from Brussels. In contrast: any moves by magistrates in Romania or Bulgaria must be sanctioned through the continuing biannual Cooperation and Verification Mechanism as part of post-accession conditionality.
  • He removed dozens of elected Kurdish mayors and stripped several MPs from Kurdish parties of their parliamentary immunity on grounds that they lacked loyalty to the state.
  • He arrested dozens of critical journalists, brought hundreds of cases of alleged libel toward him to court and granted large public works concessions to oligarchs in exchange for their acquisition of critical media outlets and their promise of favorable coverage.
  • He allowed thousands of boats to transport refugees from Syria to Europe from the Turkish coast, yet once Germany (and its European partners) agreed to his conditions, it was clear he could easily put a stop to this.
  • He intervened in Syria in an intransparent manner and without consulting international partners, allowing thousands of jihadists to pass through the border in the months before the French terror attack last year.

Erdogan has for many years pursued a clear agenda of dismantling the constitutional order of modern secular Turkey, following his own wisdom from when he was mayor of Istanbul and declared that the West could be beaten with its own weapon: democracy. Already earlier he took control of large parts of the army, arresting hundreds of officers under the pretext of an earlier coup that was never proven. He forced their sentencing, resulting in over two hundred acquittals on grounds of falsified evidence. Following last weekend’s events, he had a list of nearly three thousand magistrates to be dismissed or arrested, including Constitutional Court judges, when the dust from the coup had barely settled. The OSCE declared Turkey’s last election problematic, due to intimidation, the use of administrative resources in his support and even limited fraud.

Being endorsed by a majority of voters does not mean much under such circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys a similarly strong electoral mandate. In such environments of intimidation and manipulation of democracy, the word ‘mandate’ loses its meaning. It increasingly appears that the attempted coup was, to a large extent, motivated by the military’s desire to defend itself from imminent plans to take over what was left of the army and judiciary through politicisation. A military coup is indisputably not the solution to the problems of a democracy. But this does not mean that world leaders who rushed to defend Turkey’s constitutional order have a remedy for Erdogan’s long-time constitutional subversion. This subversion is much worse than Hungarian leader Viktor Orban’s actions, against which Western leaders were very vocal. They had little to fear in view of Hungary’s relatively minor military role compared to Turkey. Both the EU and the United States have tried for many years now to ignore the degradation of democracy in Turkey, as they saw no solution to it. Erdogan will now use the opportunity, which he called ‘God’s gift’, to destroy what was left of any executive constraints.

If Erdogan is no better than Putin, and Europe is to deal with two such ruthless leaders on its borders, we need to change the game and put an end to hypocrisy. Turkey is still the largest aid recipient of EU funds: since 2002, even before the migration crisis, they have received over one billion euros a year to strengthen the rule of law. Today here we are, on one side Europeans distracted by chasing funny Pokémons, on the other side neighbouring states playing a Game of Thrones in which they eliminate real people. It’s not just the French who should start calling their reservists to volunteer duty. We need a widespread understanding that we are on the precipice of a new era in which our normative order is openly defied on our borders, including the terrible spillover that we already see. Security free-riding is over. If we want real democracy and human rights, we have to be prepared to pay the price for it.

This article was originally published on the blog of the Hertie School of Governance.

The Anticorruption Report. Volume 3: Government Favouritism in Europe

This volume reunites the fieldwork of 2014-2015 in the ANTICORRP project. It is entirely based on objective indicators and offers both quantitative and qualitative assessments of the linkage between political corruption and organised crime using statistics on spending, procurement contract data and judicial data. The methodology used in the analysis of particularism of public resource distribution is applicable to any other country where procurement data can be made available and opens the door to a better understanding and reform of both systemic corruption and political finance. The main conclusion of this report is that public procurement needs far more transparency and monitoring in old Member States, where it is far from perfect, as well as new ones and accession countries, where major problems can be identified, partly due to more transparency and monitoring.This policy report is the third volume of the policy series “The Anticorruption Report” produced in the framework of the EU FP7 ANTICORRP Project. The report was edited by Prof. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, PhD from the Hertie School of Governance, head of the policy pillar of the project.

Print and e-book versions of all full reports can be purchased here.

Reviews for this publication

Public infrastructure projects and other types of government procurement almost everywhere in the world suffer from favoritism and corruption, if not outright criminality. The spoils always go to the people with the right connections, wealth, or the willingness to use or threaten violence. This is among the most difficult aspects of governance for scholars to study: those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk. This slim volume summarizes detailed studies of favoritism in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. A final chapter shows how criminal organizations in many countries—including Mafia-like groups in Bulgaria and Italy—infiltrate national and EU-level public spending projects. Each chapter is packed with a remarkably rich set of charts, graphs, and statistical analyses that capture how much corruption exists and how it works. These succinct and eye-opening quantitative estimates of what really goes on beneath the surface of government make for indispensable reading and should straighten out anyone who doubts that the powerful always find ways to reinforce their influence and wealth, even on the “cleanest” of continents.

Andrew Moravcsik, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University in Foreign Affairs

Report on Turkey on institutions in public procurement for the infrastructure sector

The report employs national data to analyse recent developments in the construction sector. However, the contract-level procurement data have not been compiled as requests for the data were unanswered by the Turkish Public Procurement Agency. Therefore, aggregate data on public procurement have been used to trace developments in law and implementation. The post-2002 incumbent AKP government has to a large extent considered construction investments as an engine of economic growth which resulted in a substantial expansion of this sector. The Turkish Public Procurement Law (PPL) came into force in 2003 to bring Turkey into compliance with EU procurement standards. Although certain improvements have been achieved, frequently introduced exemptions distorted the rules and procedures for transparency, competition and non-discrimination. A considerable number of amendments have aimed at removing major public contracts from the scope of PPL. Recently, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been used principally to build up large-scale infrastructure projects. Due to the large capital requirements and the fact that the legal structure of PPPs is largely incompatible with the PPL and the EU regulations, only a smaller group of companies which have allegedly close connections with top level politicians win PPP projects worth billions of Euros. Thus, under the current framework, PPPs in the Turkish construction sector are significantly prone to corruption risks.

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.

Institutional Performance and Social Values in Turkey

As part of agreed-upon research issues and methodologies developed within WP4, a survey has been conducted with a small sample in Ankara in 2012. It was meant as a supplement to the main ethnographic fieldwork. The current report is prepared to inform the reader about the data obtained and observations made through the survey.

The field research in its entirety aimed to gather data on the interactions between public institutions and citizens, definitions of corruption and its perception, types of corruption, effects of corruption, practices of anti-corruption, cultural and social norms in this field, national and local media, and local policies. In addition to the survey, participant observation and interviews have been main research methods in the ethnographic fieldwork. Interviews have been made with local government officers, politicians, entrepreneurs, anti-corruption activists, political civic organizations and citizens’ groups… Participant observation has been made possible through involvement in various relevant meetings, workshops, and conferences. It must be noted, however, that only the findings and observations gathered through the survey will be reported in the current report.

Again, this survey study has been carried out as a supplement to the briefly explained ethnographic fieldwork. With this survey, it has been aimed to reach the views and perspectives of ordinary citizens. The main reason of including local people in such a survey is to provide a bottom-up perspective by focusing on the social and cultural values and norms underlying state-citizen interactions, including corruption. In this way, survey has been used as an additional mean to main ethnographic work conducted within the framework of WP4. This survey has focused on social- cultural norms (such as common behavioral patterns), social values, and performances of institutions as forms of expressions of socio-cultural practices.

New Grassroots Anti-corruption Revolutions Discussed at NED

National Endowment for Democracy hosted Alina Mungiu-Pippidi for a talk in Washington, DC where she argued that the demand for good governance erupting in grassroots movements in Egypt, India, Ukraine, Turkey and Brazil should be seen as a second phase of transition to democracy as global constituencies are no longer satisfied with elections alone and demand more equality of treatment from governments everywhere.

Mungiu-Pippidi shared data from the research project ANTICORRP showing that favoritism of governments in relation to citizens is the number one cause of high perceptions of corruption and criticized the global corruption movement for neglecting this phenomenon. She also expressed skepticism towards top down anti-corruption reforms, arguing that in countries where corruption is widespread the spoliation of public resources could be described as a pyramid, with people on top spoiling the most. She furthermore encouraged those who care about promoting democracy to invest in structuring this growing demand for new government.

Mungiu-Pippidi concluded her presentation by describing three situations in which such countries may find themselves, and corresponding policy approaches:

  • The first situation requires the presence of a strong and autonomous civil society. In this situation, those who lose from corruption are strong and organized enough to take action. They are the main drivers of change, and as an approach, anti-corruption strategies should be aimed at helping them achieve their goals.
  • The second situation is where those who lose from corruption are not strong and organized enough to take action. Instead of directly pursuing anti-corruption strategies, the recommended approach is to develop civil society capacity to be autonomous in the future.
  • The third situation is one in which there are no significant domestic losers meaning that no corresponding anti-corruption strategy is needed except in terms of aid distribution.

The new data is from an upcoming ANTICORRP report, an extensive quantitative analysis of causes of achievement and stagnation in the global fight against corruption. The report also argues that particularly in countries where corruption is the norm, top-down reforms are ineffective.

Most Countries Disrespect Their Own Freedom of Information Laws

A story published by the Associated Press (AP) last week revealed that most countries with Freedom of Access to Information laws do not follow them properly. In a test with over 100 countries with such legislation, more than half failed to provide the requested information and only 14 disclosed the data within the legal deadline.

The study was the first worldwide attempt to verify to what extent these laws are being effectively implemented. During an entire week in January AP journalists sent requests of information about terrorism arrests and convictions to 105 countries and the European Union.

In the small group of governments that processed the requests in a timely manner are, for instance, Guatemala, which sent the documents after 10 days, and Turkey, which needed only a week to reply. Canada and the United States, on the other hand, needed more that six months to provide the information, and in the latter case part of the data was censored. More than 40 countries never acknowledged the request or refused to provide the information on the basis of national security.

The results point out to a trend of countries’ adopting this kind of legislation as a result of pressure or incentives from international organizations, however without any intention of implementing it. In some countries, such as India and Uganda, there have even been cases of political persecution against individuals who tried to make use of right-to-know laws.

Read the full article AP Impact: Right-to-know laws often ignored on More details about the results of the study can be accessed on AP’s Facebook page. The agency is also accepting suggestions for future information requests to be made in the next parts of their Freedom of Information project. The picture shown above is credited to AP.