Western investments in Armenia's reforms worsened corruption – ANALYSIS

By Seymur Mammadov

In May 2022, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced significant successes in the country's fight against corruption and in changing the public's perception of this issue. He specifically noted that, even in a post-war crisis context, Armenia had made significant progress in the areas of freedom of speech and the press. Pashinyan emphasized that according to recent freedom of speech indexes, Armenia ranks 51st in the world, and the government will continue to pursue "democratic reforms." However, a report from the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) points to contradictions in these achievements.

From March 18 to 22, 2024, the 96th plenary session of GRECO of the Council of Europe took place in Strasbourg. Held during the fifth evaluation round, this event gathered experts and representatives from various countries to discuss key aspects of the fight against corruption. A major focus was the review of GRECO's evaluation team's report on their visit to Armenia from September 11 to 15, 2023.

The report identified severe corruption issues, particularly within the Armenian police, highlighting institutional weaknesses and gaps in law enforcement authority. In 2023, there were 450 registered cases of corruption violations, a 15% increase from the previous year, underscoring the severity of the issue and the urgent need for immediate reforms.

The report also pointed to a lack of developed ethical infrastructure and specialized anti-corruption policy in the Armenian police, noting the necessity to establish a code of conduct and adequate risk assessments.

Regarding international support, Armenia received significant funds from the European Union and the Council of Europe, including over 2 million euros for implementing four programs aimed at improving selective reforms and combating corruption in higher education, as well as strengthening criminal justice and health protection in prisons. However, questions arise about the appropriateness of these expenditures, especially given the lack of visible improvements in combating corruption.

Additionally, the issue of inadequate government response to citizens' complaints is highlighted, with more than 2,300 complaints about incomplete or delayed responses registered in 2023, a 20% increase from the previous year.

The report also emphasized the lack of transparency in public procurement processes, particularly in the context of expenditures for high-ranking officials, as a critical area requiring enhanced oversight and stricter rules to prevent corruption.

The accountability system within the Armenian government needs significant strengthening to effectively prevent risks of unlawful influence. Between 2020 and 2023, over 150 corruption cases were initiated, but only 30% reached court. This indicates problems within the judicial system and underscores the need for stronger legality and fairness in handling corruption cases.

In situations where complaints against high-ranking officials are often considered by the accused themselves, a system is created that supports decisions without proper scrutiny. Legal challenges to such decisions are possible, but the process can take years, rendering the information outdated and less relevant to resolving the original problem.

Based on GRECO's recommendations, Armenia is advised to take comprehensive measures to strengthen the fight against corruption at all levels. This should include reforming law enforcement agencies, improving the transparency of public procurement, strengthening the judicial system, and introducing strict lobbying rules. Such steps will contribute to reducing corruption and increasing public trust in state institutions, which is a key aspect of developing democracy.

P.S. Summarizing the points made above, one can conclude that in recent years, international donors, including Western countries and the European Union, have allocated significant funds in the form of grants to support reforms in various sectors in Armenia, such as police, education, and healthcare. However, despite good intentions, these investments did not lead to the expected outcomes. Ironically, the allocated funds have become a catalyst for increasing corruption instead of eradicating it. 

The situation with corruption in Armenia remains complex, and instead of improving, it seems that the problems are only deepening. This calls into question the effectiveness of current approaches to funding and monitoring the use of allocated funds. In light of such developments, Europe should reconsider its support strategies. It is important not just to distribute money, but also to demand concrete, measurable results and implement strict accountability and control mechanisms for spending. Only then can real change be achieved and corruption risks minimized, thereby ensuring a positive impact on the country's social institutions.


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