Undergraduate course

Corruption, Informality and Democracy in the EU Eastern Neighbourhood

  • ECTS credits10
  • Teaching semesterSpring
  • Course codeSAMPOL224
  • Number of semesters1
  • LanguageEnglish
  • Resources

Level of Study


Teaching semester


Objectives and Content

SAMPOL224 will provide an overview of forms of illegal power alliances and networks and their relationship with state institutions in the EU Eastern neighbourhood. The EU Eastern neighbourhood consists of the post-Soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The course will focus on these countries and Russia during the historical period beginning with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Particular focus will be placed upon the current institutional frameworks in these countries. Adopting an actor-oriented perspective, the course will focus on why and how informal relations, rather than formal institutions, ended up dominating the political culture of the region and the consequences that this has had for levels of corruption.

Despite the existence and relevance of current political forces in the EU's Eastern neighbourhood that defend the ideals of democratization and modernization in their political platforms, one also observes the manipulation of democratic symbols and institutions. Such practices question and undermine democracy in these countries. SAMPOL224 will analyse how formal and, in particular, informal institutions generate incentives for corruption and create the insecure business environment that distinguishes almost all post-Soviet regimes. A key objective of the course is to study how and to what degree formal democratic institutions are perverted by informal practices and how such practices can set these countries on an authoritarian or hybrid pathway. In this sense, the basic research question that will be analysed in the lectures is the following: To what degree have the political institutions of Russia and the EU Eastern neighbourhood countries experienced corruption and subversion by actors who work and live in the illegalities and illicitness of the region? An additional objective of the course is to analyse the external influence on the region by its two dominant neighbours, Russia and the EU, providing insights into Europe interaction with regional partners through the EU's reform strategy and how this is reflected in the EU Eastern neighbourhood countries.

The course will consist of three parts. Part I: Theories of corruption, formal and informal institutions, and regime theory in the EU Eastern Neighbourhood. Part II: Case studies, wherein the class period will be divided into lecture (first hour) and student group presentations and debates (second hour) to analyse the varieties of political regimes, their levels of formality and informality, and their cultures of corruption. Part III: Policies and remedies, in particular the EU's reform strategy towards the EU Eastern neighbourhood.

Learning Outcomes

A student who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


The student should be able to:

  • Display familiarity with the mainstream political and social analysis of corruption and the debates on informality.
  • Gain deep knowledge of the neighbourhood of the European Union.
  • Explain informal ways of politics in the post-Soviet countries.


The student should be able to:

  • Demonstrate skills in analysing the local peculiarities and cultural distinctions of the post-Soviet countries.
  • Provide an independent analysis on corruption themes on Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
  • Analyze the political practices; assess the scope of influence by interest groups and the effects of corruption inflicted on the politics in the EU¿s Eastern Neighborhood region.
  • Critically reflect on regional politics and have a more differentiated view than is presented in the media.

General Competences

The student should be able to:

  • Display a capacity to present their knowledge in argumentative and coherent way.
  • Collect data and specify the relevancy of data.

Conduct their own research that is both theoretically and empirically comprehensive.

Required Previous Knowledge


Recommended Previous Knowledge

SAMPOL115, MET102 and SAMPOL110 / SAMPOL105, SAMPOL106 and SAMPOL107

Access to the Course


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures including class discussion and student presentations. Hours per week: 2 Number of weeks: minimum 12

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

A group project of a maximum 20-minutes oral presentation on the topics outlined in the course plan.

Forms of Assessment

Take home exam (3 days, maximum 3000 words)

Grading Scale

Grading A-F

Assessment Semester

Assessment in teaching semester

Course Evaluation

The course is evaluated regularly.

Programme Committee

Department of Comparative Politics


Contact Information