The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has flagged local corruption and a lack of co-operation from governments as the main driving factors behind the EU's development aid failures in Central Asia, EURACTIV.fr reports.
In a special report, the court examined how the European Commission's External Action Service (EEAS) managed development assistance in Central Asian countries between 2007 and 2012.
The report, which covers aid to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, criticises the Commission's performance.
“The Commission provided assistance to a larger number of sectors than is consistent with best practice,” it notes.
In Kyrgyzstan for example, the European delegation had to manage 56 contracts, making any examination of the round impossible.
The report also criticises the multiplication of financial flows and the administrative costs that have represented 14.6% of development expenses in Central Asia in 2011, the relatively slow establishment of the programmes, and, above all, the difficulties linked to the level of corruption in these former Soviet republics.
According to the Court, the Commission "could and should have been more rigorous in managing its budget support programmes in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and tied these to specific anti-corruption measures".
Budget support is a transfer of resources from the EU to the public treasury of a country to help it implement its policy.
Central Asian Republics are faced with enormous levels of corruption.
All of these countries rank in the last 10% of Transparency International's world index on corruption perception.
For the court of auditors, the difficulties in implementing European funds are also explained by a lack of cooperation from these countries on broader development goals.
For instance, human rights or poverty reduction are not part of those governments’ agendas. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan “have not produced needs assessments for development assistance or poverty reduction strategies,” the Court notes.
“For example, international experts working on the reform of criminal justice were denied access to prisons and court cases,” the report further explains.
The report added that “in order to secure the government’s cooperation in its programme to reduce infant malnutrition, the Commission had to emphasise the promotion of healthy diets for mothers and children, as the Uzbek government did not admit that malnutrition existed".
At global level, the European Union remains a modest contributor to development aid in Central Asian republics. In 2010 and 2011, the EU’s annual budget on average was significantly inferior to contributions from the United States, Turkey, Japan or Germany.
€750 million were allocated to Central Asia for 2007-2013, but the Commission allocated only €435 million during the audit period (2007-2012).
In a 2011 report, the European parliament concluded that EU funds were insufficient to for the EU to have a significant impact on the seven priority fields selected by the EU.
These former Soviet republics have a low human development index, except for Kazakhstan, which is ranked 69th.
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have important reserves of oil and gas, which allows them to have a relatively high GDP level.