Croatia and Hungary are 'new face of corruption'
Perceived corruption in Croatia and Hungary is so high that both have dropped in global rankings when compared to last year, according to Transparency International (TI).
Carl Dolan, who heads the anti-corruption NGO's office in Brussels, described the two on Wednesday (25 January) "as the new face of corruption in Europe".
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His comments, posted on a blog on TI's website, followed the publication of the NGO's annual corruption perception index.
Out Wednesday, the survey noted Croatia and Hungary have now joined the ranks of the worst performers in the EU alongside Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Romania.
The survey ranks some 176 countries and scores them on a 0 to 100 scale, with 0 being perceived as highly corrupt and 100 as being very clean.
Bulgaria scored the worst among EU states with 41, followed by Greece (44), Italy (47), Romania (48), Hungary (48), and Croatia (49).
Dolan faulted the crackdown on civil society and other independent institutions in Croatia and Hungary for their worsening performance.
Both governments were also embroiled in scandals last year.
In one case, Hungary's government allegedly funneled money from the Central Bank to friends and family.
Such moves are part of a broader trend to muscle in new laws and rules that favour "a ruling party and its cronies", said Dolan.
In an email to this website, Dolan also said the EU leadership had failed to properly address the corruption that was eroding confidence in political institutions.
Other big issues like terrorism, the UK's departure from the EU, and the refugee crisis, have led EU leaders to neglect what he described "as a slow-burning corruption crisis in its midst."
He noted, for instance, that the publication of a European Commission report on corruption has been delayed by more than a year.
"This complacency towards corruption is the perfect fuel for a fast-burning crisis," he said.
EU states also rank as the best performers in the global survey, however.
Tied with New Zealand, Denmark comes out as the world's cleanest with a score of 90. Finland is next best at 89 followed by Sweden at 88.
Somalia is perceived as the most corrupt country in the world, followed closely by South Sudan, and North Korea.