Fighting Corruption: EU wants to see results of reforms in Armenia

Piotr Switalski / Photo: Photolure

At an anti-corruption forum in Armenia last week, head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Armenia Piotr Switalski said that if there are no visible results of the fight against corruption in Armenia, the EU will not allocate the 15 million Euros (about $17 million) that it has promised to give for anti-corruption struggle.

This statement of Ambassador Switalski has raised questions as to whether the Armenian government has the political will to carry out reforms or whether its Western partners have any levers to influence it to pursue anti-corruption struggle.

Fighting corruption in Armenia is part of a global process and it is not without a reason that Ambassador Switalski made his statement during the days when a global anti-corruption forum was being held in London. Five major countries decided to open the data about the owners of businesses and property, they were joined by dozens of other countries. This is part of a so-called de-offshorization and anti-corruption process.

Despite the fact that during a cabinet meeting on May 12, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan listed the fight against corruption among imperatives for Armenia and even instructed his ministers to work out some measures, public and opposition political circles dismissed his remarks as a
“show.” There seems to be a low level of trust in the government in Armenia. In the wake of Abrahamyan’s statements, representatives of the government circles said they expected concrete steps, while the opposition called on the government to start reforms with itself.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) issued a statement in which it calls on the Armenian government to sign and ratify the UN Anti-Corruption Convention of 2003 without reservations about Article 20. It turns out that Armenia did not accept the article, which qualifies as a crime “illicit enrichment”, in other words, accumulation of wealth by government officials that cannot be justified by them. The ANC said that after that the Armenian government should check all officials on the matter of having discrepancies between their declared incomes and property and real assets.

Armenia has not announced about its accession to the global anti-corruption alliance, has not ratified Article 20 of the Anti-Corruption Convention and, accordingly, will continue to be seen as a country where officials potentially hide their incomes and their origin.

It is yet unclear whether any measures to press Armenia to fight against corruption will be taken. Among such measures observers call the possibility of Western financial institutions to refuse to provide fresh loans to Armenia. Since during the past six months Armenia has increased its national debt by $1 billion, or by 20 percent, for the government it is important to receive the loans timely as without them, it is unlikely to be able to fulfill its social obligations.

In the World Bank report Armenia is referred to one of the most monopolized economies in the world, and, as experts say, it is due not only to the small size of the Armenian market, but also the fact that there are clear quotas for everything in the Armenian economy, in other words, corruption in its ugliest form, criminal oligarchy, is evident.