Armenia’s current government has made “serious progress” in combatting corruption in the country but should not “rest on its laurels,” a senior European Union diplomat said on Tuesday.
Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, admitted that the reform-minded government is serious about its repeated pledges to eliminate corrupt practices.
“But political will, being the sine qua non element, is not enough,” Switalski cautioned at a news conference. “You also need other elements such as institutions, laws and a social culture or environment.”
“Regarding the institutions, we can see that the government wants to create a new, independent anti-corruption agency that will have wide-ranging powers,” he said. He also praised the government’s plans to enact anti-graft laws.
Switalski added that the EU stands ready to “help” the authorities in what he hopes will be a sustained and “long” campaign against corruption. “Don’t rest on your laurels because the way [forward] is long,” he said, appealing to them.
The number of high-profile corruption investigations launched by Armenian law-enforcement authorities has risen significantly since last spring’s “velvet revolution.” They have targeted former senior officials as well as former President Serzh Sarkisian’s relatives.
Speaking in the parliament on February 12, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian declared that his administration has already “broken the spine of systemic corruption in Armenia.” Pashinian said it will now focus on putting in place “institutional” safeguards against the problem. In particular, he said, it will make information about the personal assets of individuals holding or aspiring to state posts easily accessible to the public.
Switalski made clear that the EU is also encouraged by other reforms initiated by Pashinian’s government and will reward them with greater financial assistance already this year. He cited statements to that effect made by Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner for European neighborhood and enlargement negotiations.
Hahn hailed democratic change in Armenia when he visited Yerevan and met with Pashinian late last month. He singled out the conduct of the December 9 parliamentary elections, saying that they are regarded as free and fair by the international community.
Hahn did not specify the likely amount of the extra EU aid. He said only that it will be allocated from an EU fund designed to reward partner states’ “special achievements” in the areas of democratization and rule of law.