The Eastern habit of taking a gift when visiting someone is spread in Armenia in all the spheres of life, from diplomacy to elections. The press reported that the Armenian Ambassador to the UK Karine Ghazinyan met with the head of PACE observation mission for the parliamentary elections in Armenia Emma Nicholson and before leaving the office she left a bottle of cognac there.
Nicholson says that she saw the bottle only after Ghazinyan had left and gave it to a charity organization since the British laws prohibit state officials to accept gifts.
They say in 2008 the international observers left Armenia with precious gifts. “This is a very serious issue, we are in 2012 and not in 2008,” said Nicholson.
The Armenian parties do not visit voters with empty hands. Everyone takes what they can. Gagik Tsarukyan presents tractors, then he promises he will not take them back until the election of 2013. Artur Baghdasaryan presents jam from the factories of his friends. The ruling party visits the houses of people taking notes on what they need.
There is a joke on this. The woman had barely managed to arrive from a faraway place just in time for the funeral of his brother. Before putting the coffin into the grave, she puts something in it. Then the son of the deceased asks: “Aunt, what did you put into the coffin”. “I was in such a hurry, that I didn’t know what to bring. I saw a chocolate, so I bought it,” says the aunt.
The habit of having a chocolate in the bag comes from the soviet times when Armenia was a typical Asian republic. The Eastern tradition of dowry, magharich (“facilitation fee”) and tip has been rooted in our consciousness perhaps because we are closer to the East. This habit has deep civilization roots. In the East, particularly in the Muslim world, everything is measured by money – freedom, responsibility, rights and love.
The European civilization has a different scale of measuring of rights and responsibilities. It recognizes the treaty and the Constitution, arguing that people should be free and fulfill their obligations, regardless of what you put in their pocket. Because gifts for the performance of duties mean corruption.
In this sense, Armenia is not a European country. Until the habit of sticking into people’s pockets every kind of chocolates and tractors is not eradicated, we will not become a part of the Western civilization. Of course, we can also not become it, but then let’s declare that Armenia is an Eastern country, and corruption is a tradition, not evil. And let’s not accept the money of the western taxpayers to deal with corruption formally.