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Russia Influence 'Bad For Corruption' In Ex-Soviet Area

(OSCE) September 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Corruption is getting worse in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union thanks in part to the growing influence of Russia.

That's the view of Miklos Marschall, regional director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International.

Marschall was talking to RFE/RL about the global corruption watchdog's new report issued today, The Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries on their degree of corruption as seen by business people and experts.

Marschall said there was no improvement overall in the region partly because there was less political will for reforms.

"Wherever there is a stronger influence of the European Union, you see improvement," he said. "Wherever Russian influence is growing, the corruption situation is worsening."

Uzbekistan was the worst performer in the region, sinking to 175th place, and one of five countries perceived as the world's most corrupt.

At the other end of the scale, Marschall pointed to the progress made by the three Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- on their road to joining the EU in 2004.

"Successful reforms of the public administration and opening up the economy can change the situation. And of course this is because of European accession, which was a very powerful external force that pushed reforms in those countries," he said.

He also noted one bright spot in the former Soviet area -- Georgia, which has moved up twenty places on the list to 79th spot.

"It is clear that [Mikheil] Saakashvili’s government brought about significant changes and that is being reflected in the opinion of the international business community, and that is reflected by our score," he said.

Russia itself ranks 143 on the list, a slide of more than 20 since last year, a position Marschall called "a great embarrassment for Russia" as it meant corruption was getting worse despite government pledges and commitments.