Saturday

31st Oct 2020

Greek corruption worth €800 million a year

  • Paying bribes is part of everyday life in Greece (Photo: Aster-oid)

With Greece feeling the pressure from member states, the EU commission and the IMF to get a grip on its public spending, a transparency watchdog has estimated that the cost of bribes paid out by Greek citizens for public and private services is at least €800 million a year.

"Corruption is one of the main reasons why we have this economic crisis in Greece. It's not the only one, but it's a very important one," Aris Syngros, head of Transparency International's office in Greece, said on Thursday (1 July) during a hearing in the European Parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He presented the results of a survey carried out in the second half of 2009 which puts the cost of day-to-day corruption between €717 million and €857 million, an increase by some €40 million compared to results published a year before.

The calculation is based on telephone interviews with a sample of 6,122 individuals, carried out between July and December 2009.

The survey shows that the public sector in Greece is the most prone to corruption, with 9.3 percent of households reporting that they were asked to pay a bribe in order to speed up administrative processes, get fair treatment in hospitals or avoid a penalty for traffic offences. The average bribe paid in 2009 for public services was €1,355.

But private companies and services also ask for bribes, as 5.3 percent of the people who participated in the survey admitted to have paid an average €1,671 to the private sector.

The study does not include high level corruption cases or big tax evasion schemes, which would put the figures much higher, Mr Syngros stressed.

"Corruption is not something we can't see or touch. It's real money, drained away from the real economy. Everybody speaks about recovery, growth, jobs, but without fighting corruption, this won't work," he said, urging the European Commission to put pressure on the Greek government to implement a far-reaching anti-corruption strategy.

"So far, the EU was like a spectator in a football match. We need a more active EU, that goes down on the field and is part of developing solutions."

Back in Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou on the same day once more acknowledged that "funds are being wasted this very minute into a black hole of mismanagement, corruption and waste."

He was speaking about spiralling public health costs, stressing that the solution was not extra money, but reducing wasteful spending.

In 2009, Greece spent €11 billion on health and pensions and has cut the bill by €0.8 billion for spending in these areas this year.

A commission official present at the hearing in Brussels pointed out that the EU-IMF bailout package of €110 billion included requirements on tax evasion and on the defence sector, which is prone to corruption in many other countries as well.

The EU executive is now looking at ways to extend monitoring of anti-corruption efforts in all member states, as government and private corruption scandals ranging from defence contracts in Portugal to companies such as Siemens and Volkswagen continue to pop up, with Transparency International noting a worsening of the corruption perception in most EU countries.

"It's a question of credibility for the EU: if we present ourselves at international level as upholding a certain standard, we have to do more at home as well. We are now working on a mechanism of periodical reporting on anti-corruption efforts within the EU," a commission official said.

Romanian centre-right MEP Monica Macovei, a former justice minister, also noted that the EU had no means of putting pressure on countries once they became members. "We only ask candidate countries to meet certain criteria on justice reform and anti-corruption measures. But once they're in, there is nothing, no acquis, no pressure. That's why we need this mechanism," she said.

Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill

Spain's socialist-led coalition has proposed changing how members of the country's top judicial body, the General Council of the Judiciary, are appointed - triggering a political and judicial storm about the independence, and drawing 'double standards' complaints from Poland.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Corruption failures also highlighted in rule of law report

The European Commission's first report on the rule of law has raised concerns over the lack of effective anti-corruption efforts in some members sates - while it considers Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands have good governance measures.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us