In one of our recent debates, Paul suggested we look at the serious problem of corruption in EU member states. Last week, Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, published her long-awaited report on levels of corruption in all 28 EU Member States. The results were eye-opening, with the report concluding that the extent of corruption in Europe was “breathtaking” and was costing the EU at least 120 billion euros each year.

Although levels of corruption differ significantly between Member States (with the highest levels recorded in Spain and Greece, and lowest in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark), around 74% of EU residents believe that corruption is widespread in their country. Apart from the economic costs involved, corruption also decreases trust in the democratic system, particularly as the report concludes that corruption occurs predominantly on a national (rather than EU) level.

So what can be done to combat corruption in EU Member States?

That was the question sent in by Marco from Portugal, and we asked three MEPs to respond. We started with Svetoslav Hristov Malinov, a Bulgarian  Centre-Right MEP, who said that EU action is the only way to combat corruption in his country:

Svetoslav_Hristov_MalinovThe level of corruption in Bulgaria is such that Europe is seen as the only way to combat it. In a very bizarre way, the level of corruption is boosting the popularity of the EU. The problem lies with the fact that in most post-communist countries, the market economy and democratic system were established before the rule of law. As a result, we now have to rely on a traditional system that is ineffective on almost all levels and distrusted by our citizens. What should be done is to radically reform these traditional systems, including the Prosecutor’s office. And, in Bulgaria, we even have to change some parts of our constitution.

Next, we put Marco’s question to Traian Ungureanu, a Romanian MEP who also sits with the  Centre-Right in the European Parliament. He argued that the implementation of anti-corruption rules is difficult when Member States lack political will:

UngureanuThe European Commission has been very active in pushing member states like Romania and Bulgaria to establishing credible judiciaries, to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and block any interference of political parties and actors into judicial matters. Take, for instance, the Commission’s new Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification, which deals with justice and corruption problems in Romania.

What the Romanian government is doing is a different matter. It’s a question of political will, and this is what is lacking in Romania. The judiciary is threatened, humiliated or put into question publicly by government officials. Anti-corruption agencies in Romania are effective but have to fight an uphill struggle against hostile media and political forces.

Finally, we recieved a question from Hrvoje through our ‘Suggest a debate’ form: “I am 26 from Croatia with a university degree and I worked as an intern for 1600 kuna (around 200 euros) for a year. Now, I am again without a job and with no future. The people who get jobs are those who are loyal to a party and its politicians. Why does the EU tolerate this system of corruption, nepotism, and unfair job competition?”

We put this question to Radical Left Croatian MEP Nikola Vuljanić for him to respond:

Nikola VuljanicOne problem is that the state is the biggest employer in Croatia […] and belonging to the party in power is really the only way to get a job in a state office or state-owned firm. This is a remnant of the communist regime. In fact, the system is much stronger today than ever before. I don’t think the EU can do anything about that. Especially on the local level, existing law is quite often bypassed. In other words, the corrupt system is informal so you cannot sanction it.

What can be done about corruption in different Member States? And is it the EU’s responsibility to intervene? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

44 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Olivier Laurent

    Reduce the amount of regulations and reduce the state expenses.
    Then you can focus on what truly matters: fair market.

  2. avatar
    George Bariz

    In the states EU members where the corruption is very high,the EU must keep pressure in keep this states under control…how?,,by punishment!

  3. avatar

    What EU can do? A LAW!!

    Oh my God. You made laws for several stuff and no for that??
    What is EU?? An idea of state or a selected club of millonaires?

    What should do EU? A straigh law against corruption. It’s easy!!

    But I know the problem. European Comision is formed by Prime Ministers of each goberment, so, there will be no law against corruption.

    So shame

  4. avatar
    George Danieldsg

    What can be done about corruption in different E.U. bodies ,organisations etc. WHERE IS THE HEART OF THE BEAST? From Greece with love!!!!!

  5. avatar
    Panos Mentesidis

    George Bariz I like it!! Punish the puny insects and burn them alive!! Specially the younger generations its their faults!!! argh!!! pathetic…

  6. avatar
    Fernando Seabra

    I’d like to know how can we do it. If you remember Portugal have the most of corruption between the great banks and members of the Government or Parlament. Our President and his daughter can’t explain how they won lots of profits with some operations with a bank bankrupted…

  7. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    Countries not states and considering that the eu`s accounts have not been signed off for years and years it should keep its nose out.

  8. avatar
    Tiago Mouta

    Maybe thats why all the lobbyists, from the big companies have an office in Brussels near the decision making people :D

  9. avatar

    When was the last time the EU had its accounts signed off by the auditors ? Corruption is at the very heart of the EU itself , who allowed corrupt countries membership , who allowed countries to join the euro that didn’t meet the EU’s own criteria . To talk of what should the EU do is a joke . The EU is corrupt ,what of the lobbying that takes place , a nod , a wink , a backhander here and there . Fight corruption ? Not with the EU involved we wont !

    • avatar

      You do realise that the refusal of the Court of Auditors to sign off the EU budget is in the main because of discrepancies taking place at the Member State level? And, likewise, that the vast majority of corruption is also taking place at the level of the Member State?

      Logically, at least, you must accept that the sums involved in the EU budget are piddling compared to the amount of public money sloshing around at the national level.

  10. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Reduce the amount of legislation they have made and can make.
    Force MEPs to divulge all financial transactions.
    Force ALL lobbying groups to declare all interests.
    Force MEPs to document ALL meetings/communications with lobbying firms.
    Force all lobbying firms to state all transactions in detail.

    All EU nations that allow/conduct fraudulent activities with EU money should be fined treble the amount involved.
    Force countries like France to change their laws to allow Le President to be charged and trialled in office.
    Reward whistle-blowers handsomely ie > £3 million for revelations that result in convictions.
    Chastise the worst 5 EU nations each year for their endemic corruption.

  11. avatar
    José Manuel Quintáns Pazos

    Just start by doing strict control on how the grants are being spent in the southern Europe, and EXPOSE all the lacks and flaws of the southern states and how high functionaries and politicians and their business webs parasitize those money flows lying donors and robbing the opportunities of the youth and honest people. Let the dirty south sink if needed, and maybe we could reborn.

    I do not care about states, I just care about honest people.
    *From Galicia, Spain.

  12. avatar

    Toby , yes of course we all know that the political elite are not to be trusted with OUR money . Having the EU is just another level on the gravy train . At least on a National level we can vote them out .

  13. avatar

    Just start by doing strict control on how the grants are being spent in the southern Europe, and EXPOSE all the lacks and flaws of the southern states and how high functionaries and politicians and their business webs parasitize those money flows lying donors and robbing the opportunities of the youth and honest people. Let the dirty south sink if needed, and maybe we could reborn.

    I do not care about states, I just care about honest people.
    *I am from Galicia, Spain.

    Croatian MEP Nikola Vuljanić says: “the system is much stronger today than ever before”, and I am sure of that because, here in Spain, we too have a huge state over our shoulders, full of corrupt functionaries and politicians supporting businesses AND though the EU’s grants allowed to grow Spain, those grants also reinforce those corrupts, weakening honest businessmen and people moral.

    EU have to control and expose

  14. avatar

    The best way to tackle corruption is to abolish politicians and bureaucrats, at least to the point where they can do things behind closed doors.

    Speaking of corruption, there is a transatlantic treaty being negotiated that will utterly destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in European countries (jobs waiting to go to low wage countries) but politicians seem to be lining up to back this treaty, the only explanation can be corruption (ie bribes from corporations who want shadowy tribunals and arbitrage courts so they can bypass parliaments and legal systems).

  15. avatar
    Tsvetanka Boeva

    First remove the corrupted politicians from leadership of the big European parties, for example Sergei Stanishev, leader of PES.

  16. avatar
    catherine benning

    Paul is absolutely right, but, what you all need to know before making any assumption corruption is rampant read this:

    To simplify what it tells us in part is we are being sold out as we move along with our eyes wide shut:

    And it is our EU that is selling us all out to America – Hollande got the red carpet treatment because he has now dropped his oppostion to the EU – US “trade agreement” – but

    This is not a trade agreement (even Obama admits that)

    This secret deal between the EU and US currently being agreed by all EU leaders – sells the whole of Europe out to America

    TAFTA- look it up – allows America to take over every single public sector contract in Europe – America wants Ukraine in the EU to allow America to take over Ukraine border control with Russia – and every other border control in the EU

    TAFTA -allows GM crops, GM food unlabelled – American Fracking chemicals, American beef tainted with hormones, American companies to insist they be allowed to taint our beef and milk with hormones (all unlabelled)

    TAFTA allows Americans to dictate our environmental standards should be wiped away

    TAFTA allows America to dictate how our public sector outsourcing contracts are written

    TAFTA allows American corporations to take over control our police, our fire services, our transport , our passport and border control – our country

    TAFTA – the EU-US trade agreement Cameron won’t talk about – that is why Cameron will not give the UK a referendum until 2017 – because he is selling us out now to the US using the TAFTA trade agreement being negotiated now

    This agreement is about ensuring American companies no longer need to manufactur products to our EU standards

    This EU-US TAFTA agreement is about ensuring all safety standards in food across the EU are dropped to American standards

    This EU-US TAFTA agreement is about ensuring all our evironmental protection standards are wiped out

    Just one agreement and any US Corporation can sue US if we refuse to let their substandard products into our country

    This is not an EU agreement – this is EU leaders (wined and dined by US) – to take over the EU

    First raid their banks – then get our puppet politicians (many who are educated in the US for free) to enforce American Austerity standards – then get their puppet politicians to wipe out their social security standards – and then get their politicians to wipe out unions – and then America can just walk in and take over all public sector services -democracy – using the Trade agreement

    TAFTA – ask David Cameron about it – before the EU elections in May

    If the people of the UK don’t stand against Labour, Tory and Liberal at the EU elections in May – then we have no chance to stop this

    Because – Tories, LIberal and Labour party have all agreed they will sign this US takeover of Europe TAFTA deal – that even Obama admits is not actually a trade agreement – just an American takeover disguised as one

    Worry about this?

    • avatar

      Just wait for the TPP, that is even MORE horrendous.

  17. avatar
    Xavier Schoumaker

    We need an Independent European judicial system since all national judicial systems have been torpedoed by political parties.
    Crime does not have borders.

    • avatar

      I agree

  18. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    It is the way politics work that make corruption endemic in all states in Europe… The fish smells from the head a saying in Greece says.. So if the leaders and the governments of Europe are corrupt then corruption settles in the country… If to get elected you need money from donors and make promises to your creditors to help them safeguard their interests that are often against the interests of the country and the people then it is laughable to have leaders that want to end corruption.. They can start from themselves.. End off!! Bloody hypicrites!!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Christos Mouzeviris
      The greeks are famous for their sayings:

      Beware of Greeks bearing gilts.

      An EU grant in the hand is worth 2 [fictional olive] bushes.

      A bribe in time, robs nine.

      People like YOU foment and ferment the perspective that Greece is irredeemably corrupt.

      One of the best ways to reduce corruption in the EU is to laugh at low PQ-types like YOU that do a great disservice to Greece and indeed the EU.

    • avatar

      Nea Demokratia and PASOK should be banned because they are criminal organizations. Send criminals like Samaras and Venizelos to jail, they are selling out the Greek people to please German and French bankers.

  19. avatar

    In Romania the media is OWNED by the politicians or their “friends”. No wonder the media is hostile to any scrutiny into political affairs by the judicial powers.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      In answer to the forum question, either:

      Expel Romania from the EU


      Force the Romanians into Turkish rule


      Enslave the Romanian population – oh,err I think that’s already been done!

  20. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    Corruption does not only apply to political powers but also to individuals as well, it is a way of thinking by choosing the “easy way” to get the things done without care for or paying attention to the consequences. A harmonization of the judiciary system together with the harmonization of the internal audit controls both in the public and private sector would help a lot and that can be done in a European level. But lets not forget the basics, as I said corruption is a way of thinking and for some a “way of life”, so the responsibility to fight it of lies not only to the EU and the national governments but to each and every individual. Even if we had the best legislation in the world concerning corruption it would have been useless if the individual citizen, whether he/she is a member of a political, economical or social institution, don’t feel the responsibility to implement it for the common good. That is one of most important thing among others which must be build as a common european value and, as we live in interesting times, fighting of corruption in one member state also helps the others. Finally closing the democratic deficit in the EU is another way of fighting of or at least reduce many types of corruption by bolstering the responsibility of all European citizens to do so.

  21. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Spyros Tsakos I totally agree with you but how do you change a mentality that was created over decades, centuries even? It is usually the result of extensive poverty and human deprivation for a long long time.. Under occupation from a foreign power or under an undemocratic authoritarian regime, political religious or military.. People in poverty will resolve to corruption to survive and achieve a more comfortable level of living.. And if generation after generation remains in poverty then corruption becomes part of their culture.. The solution? End poverty and give the country time…

  22. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    Christos Mouzeviris, you are right of course this is a reality that we face every day. But remember corruption does not apply only to the poor but also to the wealthy as well. Poverty and greed is the two sides of the coin we call corruption(and of course crime). In order to end poverty for the one side and give the time and incentives to other side to help out we need to change the political(democratic) and social system across Europe(and of course across the world). As you said, it is very difficult to change a mentality that was created from the previous systems of the past in all member states, then adjustments and alterations are needed to the current system(or even the introduction of a new system) in order to introduce or help in the creation of the means needed so as to bring some kind of balance for the two sides and of course the appropriate time that this huge task needs.

  23. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    I have always supported that the solution lies in our education systems. Our schools and universities to prepare responsible and aware citizens.. And also this change must come through Europe.. That is why I support the European institutions more thab the national ones!!

    • avatar

      The EU is more corrupt than our national system. Plus the people who work for the EU pay no income tax like I have to. They are far more corrupt, plus they are mostly unelected and listen to corpo-rat lobbyists.

  24. avatar

    @Tarquin Farquhar:
    I like my 4th option – lock you in the loon bin.
    How does that sound?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar


      What’s a loon bin?
      Is it like a loony bin?

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Why do you want to put a loon bird in the bin?

      What has the poor loon bird ever done to you?

      PLEASE, leave the loons alone!!

      PS: I am not a fan of the Pacific Loon in any way shape or form (they are not as splendiferous as the Common Loon, Yellow-billed Loon, Black-throated Loon or indeed the Red-throated Loon for that matter) BUT please don’t bin any.

  25. avatar

    @Tarquin Farquhar : You’ the guy who calls for an EU state ( ROmania ) to be “given to Turkey” ( i assume you’re a turk, in which case i am wondering what the posh are you even doing commenting here since your country is OUTSIDE the EU.
    And you have the gall to tell Christos Mouzeviris he is the “problem” ?
    I guess the word “irony” means nothing to you.

    • avatar
      Christos Mouzeviris

      I am a problem only to people intellectually challenged my dear Crayven.. Those who can not swallow the truth or look at it in the eyes.. Yes for everything wrong in our country it is the EU’s, the EuroSoviet Union’s fault, as well as the poor immigrants who come from lazy, corrupt inferior nations and somehow our government has no blame at all… What can you say to those people.. Just bless them!!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      FYI I am NOT from the great nation of Turkey – your first sentence is thus spurious, fallacious, erroneous, incorrect and irrelevant.

      Perhaps my alleged ‘gall’ is well-placed? Christos ‘RACIST’ Mouzeviris is obviously a problem or should I say has a problem as he keeps getting his posts removed because of RACISM.

      BTW, “IRONY” means FE + “Y”.

      NOW, in response to the forum question:

      The EU needs to be ‘trimmed’ and ‘ripped’ as it can no longer afford to continue in its present form ie handing out charity to certain EU nations that are probably too corrupt to civilize/industrialize.

      The EU should cut its losses and go for a lean, high-value trading bloc bereft of poor and corrupt countries that might like Greece [which has become a developing nation again after decades of free money (sorry money given freely by Germany, France and the rest of the Northern EU net contributors)] prove too difficult to successfully upgrade to a regular and stable developed nation like France, Germany, Italy etc etc

      PS: Let’s hope no-one tips off some of the sites/blogs etc about Christos Mouzeviris’ RACIST behaviour and let’s really hope that no-one contacts his journalism tutor to inform same of such despicable RACISM.

      PPS: BTW, did you know that DIT, DBS and DCU run part-time Journalism courses in Dublin? Wow!

  26. avatar
    Peter Cartwright

    Unfortunately corruption will never be eradicated, but corruption can be reduced. The best way is by having the political will in member states to reduce poverty, share the wealth and create a climate where citizens feel part of the local and wider community. Unfortunately, again I can’t see this happening in my lifetime, and I am only 56! as capitalism creates corruption and the EU’s priority is to uphold the capitalist system!

    A reaffirmation of the principles contained within the Maastricht treaty and sticking to them would be a good start!

  27. avatar

    In some countires punishment works, in other countries it doesn’t. EU wouldn’t be EU if force and punishment would be applied. Instead, an investment in education for both young people and adults in the corrupt countries might work on the long term.

    The minimum wage also needs to be addressed and risen. Most corrupt countries are those where it is very difficult for people to have a decent lifestyle from their monthly wages. If people would be payed more they wouldn’t feel the need to give or take bribery. But this is also something that could work on a long term.

    Europe should be prepared to invest in something that will not show results in 5 years, but maybe it will show in 10 after the current political leaders will have died. The influence of Europe in these countries should be bigger than the one of their own politicians.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      We [the EU net contributors of the North] gave some countries billions upon billions for decades and said countries are still corrupt and un-developed.

      Perhaps some countries are irredeemable and not worth the MONEY, TIME or EFFORT?

      Just a thought…

      Just a

  28. avatar

    What’s the best way to tackle corruption in Europe?

    That’s a stupid question. Corruption cannot be tackle. It will always take different forms one step ahead of any known law. Increasing punishment level for the allege “corruption”, will make room for abuses and it will raise the level of revenge takers. The numbers on “corruption” can be lowered though just in one case, death penalty. Fighting corruption walks exactly the same path of “War on Drugs” from US. A lot of taxpayer money involved and poor results.

  29. avatar

    corruption roots and branches are growing wider and wider.dealind with it became inevitable but again its possible to uproot en trench it

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