27th Feb 2020

Greece scores worst in corruption ranking

Greece is perceived as the most corrupt of EU countries, along with Bulgaria and Romania, an annual corruption perception ranking released on Tuesday (17 November) by Transparency International shows.

Carried out in 180 countries around the world, the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index measures the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians on a scale where 0 is the most corrupt and 10 is graft-free.

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  • The Parliament in Athens - corruption in the public sector is widespread, say experts (Photo: EUobserver)

As in previous years, Denmark is perceived as the least corrupt among EU countries, with a score of 9.3, followed by Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. At the lower end, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania share last place with 3.8. They are followed by Italy, which also registered a major slide compared to last year, and now ranks below Poland and Lithuania as well as EU candidate Turkey and Cuba in the corruption stakes.

"Greece's poor score shows that joining the EU does not automatically translate into a reduction in corruption. Immediate and sustained efforts are required to ensure the country lives up to acceptable levels of transparency and accountability," the anti-corruption watchdog concludes.

The newly elected left-wing government in Athens recently promised to clamp down on corruption and revealed that the public deficit data kept by the previous cabinet were embellished.

This prompted the EU statistics office Eurostat to express "reservation" on the Greek data in its report on EU government debt levels for 2008.

"Graft and corruption have always been an integral part of Greece's political culture, thanks to the existence of a paternalistic state where kickbacks constitute routine practice for the provision of public services," writes Chronis Polychroniou, a professor with the British university of Teesside.

A special report published in July by the Greek general inspector of public administration concluded that the public sector is riddled with corruption. Urban planning offices, state hospitals and townhalls were identified as the sectors where corruption is the most acute.

While Brussels has a special monitoring mechanism in place for Romania and Bulgaria, it lacks any real leverage on Greece's poor performance in tackling corruption and speeding up lengthy trials.

A proposal included in a list of EU priorities in the field of justice and home affairs - known as the Stockholm programme - asks the EU commission to set up a similar auditing system for all member states and to develop a "comprehensive anti-corruption policy."

The programme still needs the approval of EU leaders at a summit on 10-11 December. Greece, along with other Mediterranean states, is said to be opposed to the monitoring proposal.

Big EU donors such as Germany and the Netherlands are growing increasingly irritated about the potential mismanagement of EU funds in recipient countries, however.

Greece was the largest recipient of community money in 2008. Athens received roughly €6.3 billion, far ahead of Warsaw, in second place, with €4.4 billion.

Out of the €5.9 billion agricultural aid recovered by the EU commission in the last ten years, €1.3 billion were clawed back from Greece. On regional funds, the EU executive recovered €842 million from Athens in 2000-2006.

In 2005, the commission decided to reduce the by €518 million the aid given to Greece "due to serious weaknesses found in the management and control systems", particularly relating to public procurement and contract modifications. The same weaknesses in public procurement procedures were found last year, when regional aid was reduced by €26 million.

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