Europeans see corruption as major problem
More than three quarters of Europeans agree that corruption is a major problem for their country, mostly due to the links between business and politics, a survey by Eurobarometer, the bloc's pollster shows.
The ranking varies between 97 percent of Bulgarians to 22 percent of Danes saying that corruption is a serious problem in their country, with an EU average of 78 percent.
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The corruption perception stayed largely the same in most countries, when ompared to a similar Eurobarometer in 2007,
In Finland, however, the proportion of people concerned about corruption doubled from 25 to 51 percent, mostly due to media attention on dubious funding of political parties and individual corruption scandals.
Austria also jumped from 47 to 61 percent, while 95 percent of Maltese now think corruption is a major problem, compared to 84 percent in 2007. In the case of Malta, the results may have been influenced by several scandals involving the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and the VAT department.
In Austria, the headlines were focusing on a network of bribery and corruption amongst politicians, members of the judiciary and the police.
The British MP expenses scandal also increased public concern by nine points to 74 percent.
Luxembourg, Sweden and Slovakia are the only countries where the corruption perception has dropped.
The majority of Europeans agree that the phenomenon affects all public institutions – from local government to national and EU bodies. Eight out of ten respondents agree that there is corruption in their local, regional and national institutions. Over 75 percent also see EU institutions as affected by it.
The close link between business and politics emerges as the most widely held cause of corruption (42 percent). Public officials awarding tenders and permits – for instance in real estate - are viewed across Europe as being the most likely to be involved in corruption. However, there has been a general increase in the perception that a range of public service professions – including the police, the judiciary and the customs service - are likely to have widespread corruption.
Politicians are also least likely to be trusted to help individuals resolve personal cases of graft, with Europeans more likely to trust the courts, the police or their national ombudsman.
Around one third of Europeans also believe that governments and politicians do not do enough to fight corruption, that the punishment for corruption is insufficient, and that there is a lack of transparency in the way public funds are spent. Poverty and low income are seen as the least likely causes of corruption.
There is also a feeling, particularly among citizens in new member states, that corruption is inevitable. However, only nine percent of Europeans admit to have personally been a victim of corruption in the past 12 months.
EU leaders meeting on Thursday in Brussels are expected to endorse a policy framework for justice and home affairs, known as the "Stockholm programme", which includes actions in the field of fighting corruption.
But critics say the final language has been watered down too much from the original proposals tabled by the EU commission, which had originally eyed setting up a monitoring mechanism and common standards for all member states.