Before we know if the impeachment attempt of President Trump will go anywhere, the American voters seem to face the choice of two presidential hopefuls, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, both accused of exercising undue influence over the judiciary in another country, Ukraine. The rest of the world also watches in disbelief how US can be destabilized by its attempt to intervene in Ukraine’s anticorruption.

Few people are aware that Ukraine has been among the top global beneficiaries of both US and EU funds for fostering anticorruption and the rule of law. In Europe, only Turkey compares, both on billions received for rule of law and their doubtful outcome. The dedicated aid for fostering “integrity” is only the first element of the international anticorruption “intervention” as the attempt to promote public integrity in another country. The second element is political conditionality, extreme in the Ukrainian case, which depends on Western funds and weapons for its survival, and therefore is sensitive to suggestions made by leaders like Biden, Cameron or Trump. But such strong interventions also seem to have major unintended consequences.

Those become particularly hard to bear when one observes that neither funds nor bullying (with Western diplomats telling countries whom to fire or whom to appoint as prosecutors or judges, as it seems the case was in Ukraine in recent years) deliver rule of law. Surveying 127 countries that receive aid from the European Union (in some cases in conjunction with the US), the results are almost the opposite: in those countries where the West had more power over anticorruption, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, corruption did not go down at all. There is practically no correspondence between the ten countries receiving the most anticorruption/rule of law EU aid, and the ten countries progressing the most. Foreign intervention works poorly to prompt rule of law.

One reason shows in the Ukrainian scandal. The motives of a benevolent foreign entity seeking to promote integrity are seldom pure. Perhaps this is why former colonies are statistically more prone to corruption than states that have never been colonized. Achieving good governance is a domestic political process by which countries manage to succeed in the collective act of controlling ruling elites from abusing office for their profit. Even if the West has always been a source of emulation, the process needs to be grounded in local political dynamics and driven by domestic actors to work out. Even Napoleon’s intervention in other countries to build modern government, with which the book opens, is no exception to this rule: it worked only in Switzerland, and failed everywhere else. And contemporary success stories- from Botswana to Estonia- confirm the rule.

Where and why does the West fail in its global crusade against corruption, how can this be set right and how can the unintended consequences of such interventions lead all the way to a presidential impeachment?

Europe’s Burden. Promoting good governance across borders by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi investigates the efficacy of the European Union’s promotion of good governance through its funding and conditionalities both within EU proper and in the developing world. The evidence assembled shows that the idea of European power to transform the quality of governance is largely a myth. Available soon.

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