Corruption Risks in Europe

Stock.xchngTransparency International has just published, “Money, Politics, Power: Corruption Risks in Europe.” While the “old continent” sees itself as one of the world’s least corrupt regions, few countries in Europe actually regulate lobbying or give citizens easy access to public information, allowing a culture of graft to take hold and political and business elites to divert funds.

Bloated budget deficits and debt are at the heart of the euro zone’s 2-1/2-year crisis, and corruption means scarce public money is spent inefficiently and may be creamed off at a time when record unemployment is reducing government revenues.

The report named Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain- the euro zone’s most financially troubled nations – as having deeply rooted problems in their public administrations, namely that officials are not accountable for their actions.

But Transparency International also said that the issue was not limited to the countries of the Mediterranean.

Many countries in western and northern Europe do not have dedicated anti-corruption agencies while wealthy Sweden and Switzerland have no binding rules to regulate private donations to political parties, the report found.

 And while not technically illegal, politicians and business leaders often use their influence to win contracts and sway policies, while parliaments often fail to enforce the anti-graft laws and rules that do exist.

Corruption is notoriously difficult to measure, but 74 percent of Europeans see it as a growing problem in their countries, according to the EU’s latest Eurobarometer survey.

In fact, corruption costs the European Union around 120 billion euros ($150 billion) a year, according to the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe. Many analysts say the figure is probably higher.

The full text is available online.