Bulgaria seen as most corrupt in EU
Perception of corruption in Bulgaria is the highest in the EU, with Denmark viewed as the most transparent, according to a report by activist group Transparency International (TI).
The report, published on Wednesday (27 January), is based on polls of experts from around the world on topics including free press, access to budget information, integrity and independent judiciaries.
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Out of the 168 countries probed, Denmark is seen as the least corrupt with Somalia and North Korea as the most.
Among the 28 EU states, Bulgaria is at the bottom, ranked at 69.
The European Commission, for its part, is set to publish its annual monitoring report on Bulgaria and Romania on Wednesday.
Last year, it found Bulgaria had done little to curb corruption and organised crime despite having joined the EU in 2007.
As the EU's poorest nation, Bulgaria has grappled with political instability and a compromised judiciary.
In the TI index, Italy is not far ahead of Bulgaria in 61st place, behind Romania and Greece both at 46.
Trends in Europe also suggested Hungary, Spain, Macedonia and Turkey were becoming more corrupt.
Anne Koch, TI's director for Europe and Central Asia, said they were "seeing corruption grow, while civil society space and democracy shrink" in all four nations.
The biggest drop in Europe, compared to the past four years, is Spain.
Anger at Spanish corruption cases has helped give rise to new political parties like Podemos and Ciudadanos.
On Tuesday, police in eastern Valencia arrested former senior members in the Spain's ruling Popular Party on allegations of corruption, AFP reported.
A string of corruption scandals has also hit its monarchy, with Spain's king stripping his sister Princess Cristina of her title earlier last year over massive tax fraud.
Some of the most improved countries include Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia and the UK.
Despite the impressive scores among the Nordic countries, TI notes Denmark, Finland and Sweden are not entirely clean.
The group highlighted a 2015 corporate bribery case in Denmark that ended with 13 state employees being arrested.
Meanwhile, Sweden's part state-owned TeliaSonera was involved in bribery allegations in Uzbekistan and the former head of Helsinki's anti-drug police unit has been charged with running a drug cartel.