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Corruption In Government, In The EU

  • February 28th, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

guns-police1.jpgFresh attacks are being organised against official corruption in European Union countries, with officials saying they have no illusions that the going will be anything but difficult.


Perhaps not immediately thought of in relation to the EU, a large share of this world-wide problem belongs in Europe, linked too to the presence of organised crime, and manifested openly time and again:-  attacks on the judiciary in Italy; the high-level political / governmental scandals of the late 1990s in France (Chirac, Dumas); demands from Brussels for stiffer anti-crime measures from member states, as with criminal leagues in Bulgaria; fraud cases within the EU itself – the “Brussels bureaucracy”; and of course in the present times, overt, even folkloric taxation rorts in Greece.


denmark-police-denmarkemborg1.jpgThis month a comprehensive survey conducted by the European Commission, the Eurobarometer, revealed widespread concern among the public, with a belief that it has got worse over the last three years, and almost three-quarters of Europeans calling it a major problem existing at all levels of government.

The data shows eight-percent of respondents saying they have been asked for, or expected to pay a bribe in the past year.

cecelia-malmstrom.jpg“Corruption is a disease that destroys a country from within, undermining trust in democratic institutions, weakening the accountability of political leadership and playing into the hands of organised crime groups”, said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs (picture).

“It is disappointing to note that the practical results in tackling corruption across the European Union remain unsatisfactory…

“Whilst the nature and scope of corruption varies from one EU Member State to another, it harms the EU as a whole in terms of reducing levels of investment, obstructing the fair operation of the Internal Market and having a negative impact on public finances.

“The economic costs incurred by corruption in the EU are estimated to amount to around €120-billion per year (A$149.7-billion;, 28.2.12).”


Last June, the European Commission adopted an anti-corruption package, calling for a stronger focus on corruption in all relevant EU policies (see European Commisison,, IP/11/678 and MEMO/11/376).

It also established a monitoring and assessment mechanism, an EU Anti-Corruption Report, set to begin next year, to detail anti-corruption efforts in all of the 27 Member States.

Further legislation will be proposed soon, notably on confiscation of criminals’ assets, reform of public procurement rules, more advanced statistics on crime and an enhanced anti-fraud policy at the European level.

Other work at EU level, working across the activities of national governments, are in a set of policy fields:- asset recovery; public procurement; protection of EU financial interests; judicial and police cooperation; disclosure of payments to governments in the extractive and forestry sectors; statutory audit; enlargement and neighbourhood policies, (i.e. dealings with adjoining, non-EU states, such as the former Soviet Union), and cooperation and development policies, (i.e. contact with developing countries).


Details from the Eurobarometer survey, from September 2011:

The majority (74%) of Europeans believe corruption is a major problem in their country.

Most Europeans think corruption exists within local (76%), regional (75%) and national (79%) institutions.

They believe bribery and the abuse of positions of power takes place in all areas of public service. National politicians (57%), and officials awarding public tenders (47%) are the most likely to be considered involved in such activities.

40% of Europeans believe that a too-close relationship between business and politics contributes to corruption. Lack of action by politicians (36%) and a lack of transparency in the way in which public money is spent (33%) are contributing factors. The majority (68%) do not think that there is sufficient transparency and supervision of the financing of political parties.

70% think that corruption is unavoidable and has always existed; 67% saying it is part of their country’s business culture.

Only a minority (29%) say they are personally affected, while just 8%  have been asked or expected to pay a bribe in the past year.

Faced with a corruption case, Europeans are most likely to trust the police (42%) and the judicial system (41%) and least likely to trust political representatives (6%) to help them.


European Commission, Brussels, Eurobarometer Survey, Corruption, September 2011, MEMO/12/105., (28.2.12).

EC, Brussels, “Eurobarometer: corruption on the rise?”, 15.2.12. IP 12/135

EC, Brussels, “Frequently Asked Questions: How corruption is tackled at EU level”, 15.2.12. MEMO/12/105

See also:

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs: