Chapter 5: The world’s smallest virtuous circle: Estonia
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As in all transition countries, corruption has been and remains a concern for Estonia. Still, on the on hand the country is an obvious top achiever in comparison with the rest of the post-communist area. On the other hand, the 2000s has been a stable period, with levels of corruption almost unchanged and representing a certain plateau in development. The Estonian governance regime operates mostly in line with the principle of ethical universalism. Reportedly, all key elements of the state are subject to quite high formal standards of transparency. Correct functioning of the public procurement system is the rule, and violations, although common, are more of an exception. Estonia appears to have a high level of equity of access to its education and healthcare systems. The search for the causes of Estonia’s success often focuses on cultural factors. The high general level of interpersonal trust in Estonian society is an unusual cultural feature of a post-Soviet society. In addition, civil society and a free media represent high normative constraints for corruption and particularism. It has been argued that at the beginning of the 1990s Estonia experienced the most radical replacement of the political elite compared with Latvia and Lithuania, where the old nomenklatura networks managed to perpetuate to a much larger extent. In contrast, the new Estonian elite was willing and ready for thorough reforms of the judiciary and public administration.

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