Corruption: Alarming Findings by the EU Commission

By: Christina Neophytidou*

Corruption alone is estimated to cost the EU economy EUR 120 billion per year, just a little less than the annual budget of the European Union.

Cyprus appears to be affected by nepotism, favoritism, lack of transparency in political party funding. Despite the fact that , Cypriots do not believe it is acceptable to give money in order to obtain something from the public administration or public services, there is a belief that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest method for obtaining some public services . Another alarming finding is that Cypriots are most likely to agree that in order to succeed in business you need political connections.

The findings in more detail:

A quarter of Europeans (26%), compared with 29% in 2011, agree they are personally affected by corruption in their daily lives. People are most likely to say they are personally affected by corruption in Spain and Greece (both 63%), Cyprus and Romania (both 57%) and Croatia (55%); and least likely to do so in Denmark (3%), France and Germany (both 6%), Luxembourg (7%) and in Finland and the Netherlands (both 9%).

Around three-quarters of Europeans (73%) agree that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way of obtaining some public services in their country. This belief is most widespread in Greece (93%), Cyprus (92%), Slovakia and Croatia (both 89%), and Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Italy and Slovenia (all 88%); and least so in Denmark and Finland (both 35%) and Sweden (40%).

As in 2011, around one in five Europeans (22%) thinks the financing of political parties is sufficiently transparent and supervised. The countries most likely to hold this belief are Denmark (41%), Finland (37%) and Sweden (36%); those least likely to do so are Greece (8%), and Bulgaria, Spain and Cyprus (all 9%). The most negative perceptions of corruption within business tend to be found in Italy, Greece, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia and Spain.

Across all Member States, and in Croatia, only a minority of respondents agree that it is acceptable to give money in order to obtain something from the public administration or public services. The countries where respondents are most likely to think that giving money is acceptable are Lithuania (42%), Hungary (39%) and Latvia (38%), followed by Slovakia (29%), Denmark (25%) and Greece (24%). The Member States where respondents are least likely to say that it is acceptable to give money are Malta (9%), Slovenia (9%), Cyprus (8%), Finland (7%), Spain (7%), Portugal (6%) and Croatia (9%).

Only a minority of respondents across all countries agree that there is sufficient

transparency and supervision of the financing of political parties in their country. Member States in which respondents have the most positive perceptions of party political financing are Denmark (41%), Finland (37%) and Sweden (36%). Those least likely to hold this belief are Greece (8%) and Bulgaria, Spain and Cyprus (all 9%). Indeed, seven in ten respondents in Spain (71%), and more than half in Greece (56%) and Cyprus (57%), ‘totally’ disagree that there is sufficient transparency and supervision.

The belief that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest method for obtaining some public services is most widespread in Greece (93%) and Cyprus (92%), followed by Slovakia, Croatia (both 89%) and Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Italy and Slovenia (all 88%). At least eight in ten respondents also agree in Bulgaria, Spain, Poland, Romania and Latvia. In four countries the majority of respondents ‘totally’ agree that such methods are often the easiest ways of obtaining certain public services: Cyprus (64%), Slovenia (58%), Croatia (53%) and Lithuania (51%).

National patterns of opinion on corruption within the business culture broadly resemble perceptions that bribery and the use of connections are the easiest way to obtain public services. Thus, those countries where respondents are most likely to agree that corruption is part of the business culture include Italy (90%), Slovakia (89%), the Czech Republic and Cyprus (both 88%), Greece (87%), Croatia (84%) and Slovenia (78%).

In all 27 Member States, and in Croatia, the majority of respondents think that the close links between business and politics in their country lead to corruption. This opinion is strongest in Greece and Cyprus, where nine in ten respondents agree (both 90%). There are two countries where the majority ‘totally’ agree: Cyprus (60%) and Spain (54%)

In 20 of the 27 Member States, and in Croatia, the majority of respondents agree that the only way to succeed in business in their country is with political connections. The belief that political connections are needed is strongest in Cyprus (83%) and Croatia (81%). Cyprus is the only country where the majority of respondents (53%) ‘totally’ agree that political connections are needed for business success.

The countries with the least positive opinions on government efforts are the same as those with the poorest perceptions of prosecution success, with the addition of Latvia: Slovenia (10%), Spain (11%), Czech Republic and Cyprus (both 12%), Greece and Latvia (both 14%), Portugal (15%) and Bulgaria (16%).

Respondents are most likely to agree that high-level corruption cases are not pursued sufficiently in their country in Spain (88%), Greece (87%), Cyprus (83%),

Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria (all 82%) and France (81%).

The view that national measures against corruption are applied impartially and without ulterior motives is most prevalent in Denmark (55%), Sweden (51%) and the Netherlands (47%), and least prevalent in Cyprus (14%), Bulgaria (12%) and Greece (11%). In Greece almost half of respondents (48%) ‘totally’ disagree that measures are applied impartially, with relatively high levels of strong disagreement also observed in Cyprus (43%), Spain (42%) and Bulgaria (39%).

Within the NMS12 countries, the only Member States where the proportion of

respondents saying that they have been asked or expected to pay a bribe is equal to or lower than the EU27 average are Estonia (4%), Cyprus (3%), Slovenia (3%) and Malta (2%).

Respondents in NMS12 countries are much more likely than those in EU15 countries to say that they felt they had to give an extra payment or valuable gift for health services to be provided. They are also much more likely than respondents in EU15 countries to report that the doctor or nurse expected an extra payment or valuable gift following the procedure (23% vs. 8%). Respondents in EU15 countries, on the other hand, are almost twice as likely as those in NMS12 countries to say that they were asked to pay for privileged treatment (23% and 12%, respectively). In Cyprus (56%) of the respondents felt that they had to give an extra payment or valuable gift and did so after the care was provided. And in (14%) of cases the Doctor/nurse requested an extra payment or valuable gift in advance

Respondents in EU15 countries are much more likely than those in NMS12 countries to say that they reported the corruption (19% vs. 3%). At least eight in ten respondents in Cyprus stated they did not report corruption that they because they do not know where to report it (64%). The reason provided for not reporting is because it will be pointless since those responsible will not be punished (53%) and there is no protection for those who blow the whistle (49%).

The findings indicate that the suggestions made by Transparency International – Cyprus in an effort to combat corruption, such as the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption, the enactment of a Whistleblowing Protection legislation and the appointment of an Anti-Corruption Commissioner, are measures that the Cypriot government ought to implement immediately.

 

*Christina Neophytidou is a Research Associate at Cyprus University of Technology and an Associate of Transparency International – Cyprus.

Neophytidou C. (2014) Corruption:Alarming Findings by the EU Commission, Accountancy Cyprus, Vol. 114, p84-85