Corruption in Europe

February 05, 2014 - 6:09:48 am

Corruption across EU is said to be breathtaking. It’s time for tough measures to curb the menace. 

Corruption is widespread and no country is hundred percent free from this malaise. We all know that the difference is only in degrees. While some countries are gobbled by this malaise, to the point of economic death, a few are least affected by it, making them enjoy complete economic and social health. But a recent report shows that one region which has been taken as only marginally affected by corruption is in fact is seriously afflicted with this disease. The European Union’s Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem has presented a report saying that the extent of corruption in Europe is ‘breathtaking’ and it costs the EU economy at least 120bn euros annually. She said the true cost of corruption was probably much higher than 120bn. Three-quarters of Europeans surveyed for the Commission study said that corruption was widespread, and more than half said the level had increased. The cost to the EU economy is equivalent to the bloc’s annual budget. “The extent of the problem is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems,” Malmstroem wrote in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily. 

As expected, the results vary dramatically in countries and have thrown up some interesting facts. The countries where respondents were most likely to think corruption is widespread are Greece (99 percent), Italy (97 percent), Lithuania, Spain and the Czech Republic (95 percent in each).” In Denmark, by contrast, it’s only 10 percent. For example, many people who haven’t actually experienced corruption seem fairly certain that it’s a serious problem in their countries. For example, in the case of the UK, only five persons out of 1,115 were expected to pay a bribe, which is less than one percent, showing the best result in all Europe. However, the perception data show that 64 percent of British respondents think corruption is widespread in the country. Similarly, in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and France, while more than half of the respondents think corruption is a widespread phenomenon, the actual number of people having had to pay a bribe is low -- around two  percent. This would show that graft is not as widespread as expected. It’s fear of corruption that is more widespread in some EU countries than corruption itself.

If the EC thinks that corruption in the bloc is breathtaking, it shows its failure to curb the menace. But the challenges are very huge. The bloc is not homogeneous. Economic disparity is huge, with some countries like Greece and Italy convulsed by economic crisis, creating a fertile soil for corruption, while others like Germany and Sweden are on solid ground. But the bloc has a duty to devise measures to root out the phenomenon. Corruption is against the very founding principles of European Union and the bloc needs to act more forcefully.