The European Commission According to the European Commission, the amount of corruption costs the EU economy at least 120 billion euros (£99 billion) a year. Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, has presented a comprehensive study on the issue. She claimed that the true cost of corruption was “probably far more” than the figure of 120 billion dollars. Corruption is pervasive, according to three-quarters of Europeans polled for the Commission report, and more than half believe it has increased.
“The scope of the problem in Europe is staggering,” Ms Malmstroem wrote in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily. “However, Sweden is among the countries with the fewest issues.” The economic cost to the EU is equal to the bloc’s annual budget. The Commission investigated corruption in all 28 EU member states for the report. According to the Commission, this is the first time it has conducted such a survey. Bribery is common. Fighting corruption in the EU is mostly the responsibility of national governments rather than EU organizations.
National governments and the European Parliament, however, have asked the Commission to conduct the EU-wide research, according to Ms Malmstroem. The Commission is in charge of drafting EU legislation and enforcing treaty compliance. Only five people out of 1,115 in the UK – less than 1% – indicated they had been asked to pay a bribe. According to the report, it was “the best outcome in all of Europe.” However, 64 percent of British respondents indicated they feel corruption is pervasive in the UK, compared to 74 percent across the EU. In several nations, a disproportionately high number of people reported personal bribery experiences. Between 6% and 29% of respondents in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece stated they had been asked for a bribe or expected to pay one in the previous 12 months.
Bribery was also prevalent in Poland (15%), Slovakia (14%), and Hungary (13%) with the most common incidents occurring in the healthcare sector. Corruption, according to Ms Malmstroem, is weakening trust in democracy and sucking resources from the legal economy. “There appears to be a lack of political resolve to truly root out corruption,” she lamented. Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, focuses on fraud and corruption damaging the EU budget, but its resources are limited. It had a budget of only 23.5 million euros in 2011.
Because public procurement (government agencies buying goods and services) accounts for nearly a fifth of the EU’s total production (GDP) and is prone to corruption, greater controls and integrity requirements are required. Local and regional corruption concerns are often higher.
There are still a lot of flaws in the way political parties are funded, and often the codes of behavior aren’t strict enough. Existing conflict-of-interest guidelines are frequently not sufficiently enforced. Corruption investigations are of varying caliber across the EU. Model from Sweden Eurobarometer, the Commission’s polling department, conducted two major opinion polls for the EU research.
Corruption was cited as a barrier to doing business in Europe by four out of ten of the enterprises polled. Sweden “is without a doubt one of the countries with the fewest difficulties with corruption, and other EU nations should benefit from Sweden’s measures for dealing with the problem,” Ms Malmstroem said, citing the importance of transparency and openness regulations. Organized crime groups have sophisticated networks across Europe, with at least 3,000 of them, according to Europol, the EU police agency. Although organized crime organizations are particularly active in Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy, white-collar crimes such as bribery and VAT (sales tax) fraud are prevalent in several EU nations. VAT fraud in the carbon credits market cost the EU roughly 5 billion euros last year, according to Europol chief Rob Wainwright.