Demonstrators celebrate the withdrawal of President Otto Perez Molina's immunity from prosecution, Guatemala City, Sep. 1, 2015 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

Transparency International released its 2015 rankings on perceptions of corruption today, revealing that public-sector graft remains pervasive around the world. But the report also cited progress that offers some reasons for optimism. The index’s scores draw on expert analysis of citizen perceptions of government accountability and responsiveness, as well as the presence of bribery or embezzlement in public institutions. The U.S. and U.K. improved their scores, and familiar countries—including New Zealand, Switzerland and Canada, as well as those in Scandinavia—filled the top spots. But many usual suspects from Europe to Latin America scored dismally. Corruption has become an increasingly powerful […]

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Tbilisi, Georgia, Nov. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

In mid-January, Georgian musicians played a concert in front of hundreds of people in downtown Tbilisi to protest the government’s ongoing negotiations with Russian state energy giant Gazprom to increase imports of natural gas. The protests were only the latest in a string of demonstrations going back to last fall, when news of government talks with Gazprom first came to light. According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, its talks with Russia are part of efforts to boost energy supplies amid growing domestic consumption. The Georgian government’s decision to try and buy more Russian gas has emerged as a full-blown controversy […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Sergei Karpukhin).

“You’ve got to fake it till you make it!” Long the refrain of aspiring actors and entrepreneurs who have to pretend to be famous or rich well before they are either, this might also be a good motto for international peacemakers grappling with the Syrian war. This week, diplomats and United Nations officials are supposed to gather in Geneva for talks between the Syrian government and a cluster of opposition groups. It is still not absolutely clear when the conclave will begin. It was meant to start today. Now it looks like it might be Wednesday or later. The meeting […]

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Beijing, China, Nov. 26, 2015 (AP/Pool photo by Kim Kyung-hoon).

Twenty-five years after the fall of communism and almost 10 years after gaining membership in the European Union, Bulgaria is plagued by widespread corruption, misappropriation of public funds and vote-rigging in nearly every election. Many Bulgarians say their country’s democracy is in shambles. The past several years were marked by widespread protests and a banking crisis that forced former Socialist Party Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski to resign in 2014 after little more than a year in office. Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country, is now on its fifth government since 2013. But despite changes in leadership, voters continue to express their […]

Refugees disembark from a ferry at Piraeus port, Athens, Greece, Jan. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Thanassis Stavrakis).

In the latest Trend Lines podcast, WPR Editor-in-Chief Judah Grunstein and host Peter Dörrie discuss Taiwan’s presidential election, the “comfort women” agreement between Japan and South Korea, and Zimbabwe’s succession crisis. For the report, Human Rights Watch’s Judith Sunderland joins us to talk about Europe’s challenge integrating the massive influx of migrants and refugees in an increasingly hostile political and social climate. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant WPR articles: Outcome of Taiwan’s Election Could Help Boost Ties With Japan Japan-South Korea ‘Comfort Women’ Deal Revives U.S. Asia Pivot The Elephant in the Room: Zimbabwe’s Ongoing Succession Crisis For Europe, […]

A Slovenian policeman attempts to control migrants as they wait to enter Austria, Sentilj, Slovenia, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Darko Bandic).

In a scene from a compelling documentary called “Dreaming of Denmark,” two teenagers sit on a snowy European slope, chatting in Danish. When one of them, Mussa, describes himself as Danish, the other, his Afghan friend named Wasi, reminds him he’s Ethiopian. “Oh, yeah,” Mussa says, giggling. He had just obtained his Danish passport, after three years of living in a shelter for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Denmark, and was clearly well on his way to building a life in his new homeland. The scene was filmed in 2014, but couldn’t be more relevant today. The question on the minds […]

Slovak President Andrej Kiska with an Afghan refugee, Bratislava, Slovakia, Sept. 17, 2015 (CTK via AP Images).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the European refugee crisis and European Union member states’ approaches to addressing it. Last month, Slovakia filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice against the European Union’s plan to redistribute 120,000 refugees across all 28 member states. In an email interview, Katarina Lezova, a visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, discussed Slovakia’s response to the refugee crisis. WPR: How affected has Slovakia been by the refugee crisis in Europe? Katarina Lezova: Slovakia has not been greatly affected by the crisis, especially in comparison to […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syria President Bashar Assad at the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 20, 2015 (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti via AP).

Wherever you look these days, unhappy regional powers and even some weak states are demonstrating a startling degree of contempt for the supposed masters of the international system. In the past two weeks, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have precipitated a crisis with Iran that threatens to wreck the U.S. opening to Tehran, while North Korea has infuriated China with its so-called hydrogen bomb test. In Africa, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, once a darling of aid donors, has declared that he will run for a third term in office, having already revised the country’s constitution to eliminate its erstwhile […]

Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace after signing controversial legislation that regulates the constitutional court, Warsaw, Dec. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski).

Has Poland gone from European poster child to enfant terrible in one year? The new conservative government’s moves to stack the constitutional court and tighten its control of the media have worried Poland’s allies in the European Union and the United States and brought tens of thousands of Poles onto the streets to protest. Some have even warned of a serious threat to Poland’s democracy, two and a half decades after communism fell. In response, the recently elected government of the Law and Justice party, known in Polish as the PiS, points to its democratic mandate and the unconstitutional behavior […]

Journalists protest the jailing of opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper's editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara representative Erdem Gul, Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

This week on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss China’s infrastructure schemes in Southeast Asia, Poland’s right-wing government and presidents-for-life in Rwanda and Burundi. In the Report, Nate Schenkkan explains the Turkish government’s long war against the media and freedom of expression. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles from WPR: China’s Grand Plans in Southeast Asia on Track With Thai Rail Deal Constitutional Crisis Veers Poland Into Uncharted Territory U.S. Offers Mild Rebuke of Kagame’s Bid to Hold Onto Power in Rwanda African Union Intervention Could Do More Harm Than Good […]

The U.K. flag and the EU flag outside the European Commission Representation, London, June 9, 2015 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

The refugee crisis dominated last month’s European Union summit in Brussels, but the U.K.’s planned referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU was also on the agenda. Although a final agreement was not reached, all sides committed to work toward finding solutions and resolving British demands on renegotiating the status of its EU membership at the next summit in February. The U.K. referendum is expected to take place this summer, but the exact date has yet to be decided. While his government was implementing unpopular austerity measures in January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that, […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Kremlin, Moscow, Dec. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Mandel Ngan).

What was your favorite diplomatic breakthrough of 2015? There were quite a few to choose from. For arms control experts, there was the nuclear deal with Iran. For trade specialists, there was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For environmentalists, there was the COP21 Paris climate change agreement. Add in a few other noteworthy bargains, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, and 2015 was a bonanza year for international cooperation, at least in terms of pumping out diplomatic verbiage. But the biggest diplomatic achievement of the past 12 months may have been the simple fact that Russia and the West avoided a return […]

Anti-corruption protesters at a rally in front of parliament, Kiev, Ukraine, Dec. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky.

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is facing growing calls to root out corruption, but must ensure any reform on that front does not lead to government instability. In an email interview, Anna Derevyanko, the executive director of the European Business Association in Kiev, discussed Ukraine’s fight against corruption. WPR: How widespread is corruption in Ukraine, and what impact does it have on governance, business and the daily life of Ukrainians? Anna Derevyanko: Ukraine is the most corrupt country […]