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4th Dec 2021

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

  • Journalists from the now defunct Nepszabadsag newspaper in 2016. Transparency International is worried about Hungary's 'shrinking civil society space' (Photo: Facebook - Nepszabi Szerkesztoseg)

Hungarians perceive their country to have become increasingly corrupt in recent years, according to this year's edition of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, released on Thursday (22 February).

The annual ranking is based on a variety of surveys on corruption, including an assessment of business conditions and how often respondents encounter bribery in their country.

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  • Finland's prime minister Juha Sipila allegedly tried to influence media coverage, which Transparency International thinks is a reason for the country's slightly poorer performance in the index (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

"Hungary, which saw a ten-point decrease in the index over the last six years, moving from 55 in 2012 to 45 in 2017, is one of the most alarming examples of shrinking civil society space in Eastern Europe," the anti-corruption NGO said in a statement.

Europe as a whole does relatively well in the world, with seven European countries in the top 10 and thirteen in the top 20.

New Zealand was perceived as least corrupt in 2017, followed by Denmark. Finland shares third place with non-EU countries Norway and Switzerland.

The lowest ranking EU country – thus with the highest perceived level of corruption – was Bulgaria, for the third year in a row.

Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating EU council presidency, was ranked 71st most corrupt out of 180 countries.

Despite the problems individual countries may have, corruption is much less prevalent in Europe than in most of the world (Photo: Transparency International)

The ranking is made based on comparing the countries on a range of indicators which give points, leading to a scale from 1 to 100, with 1 being completely corrupt and 100 being a completely clean country.

Bulgaria scored 43 points, only slightly worse than Hungary (45), Romania (48), Greece (48), and Croatia (49).

For these countries, the organisation warns that there could be a margin of error of around three points.

'Some progress' in Italy

"While corruption remains a serious issue in Italy, institutional and legal structures are being built to combat it," said Transparency International (TI).

"Four relevant laws were recently approved on whistleblowing, transparency, undue influence and anti-money laundering. Although it will take time before any of these laws lead to real change these steps represent some progress," it added.

Other EU countries steadily rooting out corruption – or at least the perception thereof – are the Czech Republic (from 49 in 2012 to 57 in 2017) and Latvia (from 49 to 58 in the same period).

The United Kingdom improved from a score of 74 in 2012 to 82 in 2017.

And while Greece is still near the bottom among EU countries, the perceived situation improved considerably compared to eight years ago.

Finland surprise

However, some countries near the top are slipping.

"One of the most worrying cases in Western Europe is Finland," the NGO said, noting a four-point drop.

"This could be attributed to indistinct borders between public and private interests, where some people holding public office are not always maintaining a proper culture of recusing themselves from decisions that may affect them," said TI.

It pointed to a recent case in which the Finnish prime minister allegedly tried to influence media coverage of a potential conflict of interest case.

Croatia and Hungary are 'new face of corruption'

Transparency International said the crackdown on civil society in Croatia and Hungary "under the guise of a nationalist, ‘illiberal’ agenda" represented the new face of corruption in Europe.

Bulgaria seen as most corrupt in EU

The latest report from Transparency International ranks Bulgaria as the most corrupt in terms of perception in the entire EU.

Italy votes to become more eurosceptic

A hung parliament is expected, as preliminary results show a good outcome for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the anti-immigrant Northern League.

Draft EU report calls for sanctions on Hungary

A draft report by the civil liberties committe says Hungary is at risk of breaching EU values. Orban's government claims this is an attack on his electoral victory.

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