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Watchdog Faults Eastern Europe, Central Asia On Failure To Fight Corruption

Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia continue to experience "limited separation of powers, abuse of state resources for electoral purposes, opaque political party financing, and conflicts of interest," anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International says in its latest annual report.

The 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report, published on January 23, ranks 180 nations based on aggregated survey and assessment data from 13 different global institutions.

Denmark and New Zealand retained their place at the top of the index.

It says that the Eastern Europe and Central Asia remains the second-lowest performing region on the CPI, with an average score of 35 on its 0-100 scale. The lower the number, the more corrupt a country is perceived to be.

More than two-thirds of countries around the world scored below 50.

The grouping for Eastern Europe and Central Asia includes Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Only three countries in the region score above the global average of 43 -- Georgia (56), Belarus (45), and Montenegro (45), while Turkmenistan (19), Uzbekistan (25), and Tajikistan (25) rank at the bottom of the region.

The report notes that the scores of the six Western Balkan countries have not improved, despite their aspirations to join the European Union. It singles out Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose score of 36 declined six points since 2012.

During the same eight-year period, Belarus (45), Kyrgyzstan (30), and Uzbekistan (25), have shown significant improvement on the CPI.

However, the three former Soviet states "continue to experience state capture and a failure to preserve checks and balances," the report says.

With a score of 32, Moldova, one of Europe's poorest and most corrupt countries, came 120th.

Two countries -- Armenia and Montenegro -- have made notable progress since last year. Armenia has made a seven-point improvement since last year, reaching a score of 42, following a revolution in 2018 and the formation of a new parliament.

Armenia "has demonstrated promising developments in advancing anti-corruption policy reforms," the report says, warning at the same time that "conflicts of interests and nontransparent and unaccountable public operations remain impediments to ending corruption in the country."

Kosovo, with a score of 36, is currently going through "a shift in parliamentary power that could offer the opportunity for change." It says that the winner of the latest parliamentary elections, the Self-Determination (Vetevendosje) party, "was one of a few that responded to requests to disclose campaign costs."

Afghanistan (16), came last in RFE/RL's broadcast region, while Pakistan ranked 120 with a score of 32.

With the same score as the previous year, 28, Russia ranked 137th in the world, one notch higher than in 2018, while Ukraine came 126th with a score of 30, compared to 32 the previous year.

"Strong political influence over oversight institutions, insufficient judicial independence and limited press freedoms serve to create an over-concentration of power in many countries across the region," the report concluded.

Bulgaria (43), Romania (44) and Hungary (44), come at the bottom of the Western Europe and European Union region. "Hungary, Poland, and Romania, have taken steps to undermine judicial independence, which weakens their ability to prosecute cases of high-level corruption," the report said.

Western European and EU member states tended to score highest, while countries such as Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria came at the bottom of the rankings.

However, the report warned that even the high-scoring Nordic countries were implicated in transnational corruption scandals.

It also renewed its 2018 criticism of the United States, which ranked 23rd with its lowest score in eight years, saying that a "pay-to-play culture has only become more entrenched" during Donald Trump's presidency.

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