— The Erimtan Angle —

‘The first ever European Commission report on corruption has exposed fraud, bribery and graft on what it describes as a “breathtaking” scale. The headline figure is an astonishing $160 billion. That’s the cost to the European economy every year (3 Feb 2014)’.

The EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, who presented the report, wrote in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily that “[t]he extent of the problem in Europe is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems”.[1]

The EU ANTI-CORRUPTION REPORT itself starts off as follows: “Corruption seriously harms the economy and society as a whole. Many countries around the world suffer from deep-rooted corruption that hampers economic development, undermines democracy, and damages social justice and the rule of law. The Member States of the EU are not immune to this reality. Corruption varies in nature and extent from one country to another, but it affects all Member States. It impinges on good governance, sound management of public money, and competitive markets. In extreme cases, it undermines the trust of citizens in democratic institutions and processes. This Report provides an analysis of corruption within the EU’s Member States and of the steps taken to prevent and fight it. It aims to launch a debate involving the Commission, Member States, the European Parliament and other stakeholders, to assist the anti-corruption work and to identify ways in which the European dimension can help”.[2]  Under the heading “The wider policy context“, the report states that the “financial crisis has put additional pressure on Europeans and their governments. In the face of the current economic challenges both in Europe and elsewhere, stronger guarantees of integrity and transparency of public expenditure are required. Citizens expect the EU to play an important role in helping Member States to protect the licit economy against organised crime, financial and tax fraud, money laundering and corruption, not least in times of economic crisis and budgetary austerity. Corruption alone is estimated to cost the EU economy EUR 120 billion per year, just a little less than the annual budget of the European Union. Europe 2020 is the EU’s growth strategy over the present decade to foster a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy, thus helping the EU and its Member States to deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. Research suggests that the success of the Europe 2020 strategy also depends on institutional factors such as good governance, rule of law, and control of corruption. Fighting corruption contributes to the EU’s competitiveness in the global economy. In that context, anti-corruption measures have been highlighted with respect to a number of Member States as part of the European Semester – a yearly cycle of economic policy coordination involving a detailed analysis of Member States’ programmes for economic and structural reform as well as country-specific recommendations. More generally, improving the efficiency of public administration, especially if combined with greater transparency, can help mitigate corruption-related risks. The Commission Communication for a European Industrial Renaissance of January 2014 therefore places emphasis on quality public administration as an important aspect of the EU’s growth strategy”.[3]  Getting down to the nitty-gritty, the REPORT states that “[a]round three quarters of Europeans (73 %) say that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way of obtaining certain public services in their country. This belief is most widespread in Greece (93 %), Cyprus (92 %), Slovakia and Croatia (89 % in each). Similarly to 2011, around two in three Europeans (67 %) think the financing of political parties is not sufficiently transparent and supervised. Most likely to hold that view are respondents from Spain (87 %), Greece (86 %), and the Czech Republic (81 %), while those least likely to hold this view are respondents from Denmark (47 %), the UK (54 %), Sweden (55 %) and Finland (56 %). Just under a quarter of Europeans (23 %) agree that their Government’s efforts are effective in tackling corruption; around a quarter (26 %) think that there are enough successful prosecutions in their country to deter people from corrupt practices”.[4]

[1] “Corruption across EU ‘breathtaking’ – EU Commission” BBC News (03 Feb 2014). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26014387.




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