The idea of back street bribes and widespread corruption will seem like an idea out of a gangster film to most of us, a representation of a bygone time when Al Capone ruled the streets of Chicago. But as a recent report from the European Commission shows this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The report looked at the levels of corruption in EU member states and what was being done to reduce these levels. It found staggering levels of perceived corruption in most states with 51 per cent of respondents believing that corruption is getting worse in the EU.
In the UK, 64 per cent of people surveyed believed that corruption was widespread, with 33 per cent believing that this was the case with public officials. In terms of bribery only 5 out of 1115 people expected to pay a bribe (giving the UK the best results in Europe on this question), although 4 per cent of those spoken to believe to have witnessed some form of corruption.
Such levels of corruption are said to be costing the European Union around €120 billion each year which roughly equates to the entire value of the Romanian economy.
The areas most likely to be affected by corruption were a countries healthcare, local authorities and political party funding with 73 per cent of people believing that bribery was the best way to get access to some of their countries’ services.
The effects of the economic crisis can clearly be seen in the findings of the reports with reported levels of corruption being higher in countries that have been the worst affected. In Italy, Spain and Greece reported levels of internal corruption were all over 90 per cent with Greece performing the worst with an overwhelming 99 per cent of respondents believing that corruption was widespread in the country.
The next step will be finding a solution which the EU has noted will not be an easy task. The report noted that inevitably the solutions to this corruption crisis will be different in each member state with individual governments having to find their own ways of dealing with the problems outlined in the report.
It recommended more transparency, stronger internal sanctions and higher levels of awareness around the issue as possible starting points.Systems like those in place in Denmark and Sweden were praised for increasing public trust in the system and promoting general transparency.
This was clearly shown in the statistics with only 20 per cent of Danes believing that corruption was a big problem and only 1 per cent having encountered it in their own lives.
EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom acknowledged that any drop in the levels will take time and effort but that if countries wanted to help themselves get out of the economic crisis then they needed to take note of the report and its findings.
With only 23 per cent of those surveyed thinking that enough is being done by their governments to fight corruption it is clear that the European Union has a long way yet to go till it combats corruption.