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Whether conflicts of interest in awarding government contracts, undue influence by business on politics, bribes or the use of personal connections when accessing public services, corruption takes many forms across the European Union (EU), says the anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International (TI), which has launched its latest Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – EU.
The covid-19 pandemic is worsening matters according to TI. In some countries, politicians use the crisis as an excuse to undermine democracy, while others see it as a chance to make a profit.
While the UK is not part of the survey due to Brexit, the Republic of Ireland has one of the lowest national percentages of people who agree that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves – a minority, 40pc. The highest are Slovenia (70pc) closely followed by Bulgaria, Cyprus and the Czech Republic and Croatia.
TI found that almost two thirds of people in the EU think that government corruption is a problem in their country. This is made worse by widespread perceptions of impunity, with only 21 per cent of people believing that officials often face appropriate penalties for corruption.
Citizens are divided about which institutions have the biggest corruption problems. In half of EU countries, prime ministers and members of parliament are seen as the most corrupt. In the other half, it is business executives and bankers. Overall, a majority believe that big companies often avoid paying taxes, and that bribes or connections are commonly used by businesses to secure contracts. Trust in the police, local governments and the courts is high across the region.
Health care is a hotspot for corruption, TI suggests; while only 6pc of people paid a bribe for health care, near three in ten, 29pc of EU residents have used personal connections to receive medical attention.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of TI, says: “The EU is often seen as a bastion of integrity, but these findings show that countries across the region remain vulnerable to the insidious effects of corruption. During a health crisis, using personal connections to access public services can be as damaging as paying bribes. Lives can be lost when connected people get a COVID-19 vaccine or medical treatment before those with more urgent needs. It’s crucial that governments across the EU redouble their efforts to ensure a fair and equitable recovery from the ongoing pandemic.”
Despite more than two thirds of Hungarians seeing corruption as a significant problem, society remains polarised on whether the government is accountable for the country’s worsening corruption, writes Bálint Mikola of TI Hungary in a blog.
About the survey
The GCB surveyed over 40,000 people in the EU from October to December 2020. See also an online event this afternoon, with a panel discussion by European Parliamentarians. For the 76-page report visit https://www.transparency.org/en/gcb/eu/european-union-2021.