go-to-jailSome readers often tell us they believe the EU is “corrupt”.  On the other hand, others say they trust the EU much more than their own national government. Still others believe that corruption runs through all levels of European politics, from the local to the EU level.

It’s difficult to know whether these concerns are overblown. Corruption is by its very nature conducted in secret, so reliable data is difficult to come by. Nevertheless, a 2014 report by the European Commission suggested that the extent of corruption in Europe was “breathtaking” and was costing the EU at least 120 billion euros each year.

Opinion polls suggest that Europeans are very concerned about the extent of corruption, with one Eurobarometer survey suggesting that 76% of EU citizens think that corruption is widespread, and more than half (56%) think that the level of corruption in their country has increased over the past three years.

We had a comment from Diaconu, who argued that “Corruption is the biggest problem in Europe; from Brussels, to national governments, to local authorities; the [problem of] corruption is huge!”

Is he right? To get a reaction, we put this question to Gianluca Esposito, Executive Secretary of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), an organisation established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor States’ compliance with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards. What would he say to Diaconu? Just how big a problem is corruption in Europe?

We also had a comment from Christos, who suggested a two-fold strategy to tackle corruption: “a) Promote stability, peace, education, and economic growth, and b) Prevent the accumulation of too much power and money in one country, institution, group of people, profession, etc.”

Would that work? Or is transparency the most important ingredient? To get a reaction, we spoke to David Lewis, Executive Director of CorruptionWatch, a South African NGO that relies on the public to report corruption, so they can investigate and report on it. South Africa is currently enmeshed in a series of corruption scandals involving the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. As somebody working to tackle serious corruption at all levels of government and politics, what would he say?

david-lewis-featureThere are two or three really critical ingredients in the fight against corruption. Transparency is a facilitator; it should facilitate public participation – which is crucial, and is the model we employ. But if you want government to be accountable, then transparency on its own is not enough. You also need an active, demanding citizenry.

The other thing you need is robust law enforcement. It’s very demoralising to be complaining about corruption and pressurising governments to deal with corruption when it seems like there will be no consequences for perpetrators, and the risks for engaging in corruption will be minimal, because law enforcement themselves are either corrupted, or under-resourced, or whatever the case may be.

So, I think those are the main elements: public participation and effective law enforcement, both of which are supported by greater transparency.

What is the best way to fight corruption? How big a problem is corruption in Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Barbara Friedman


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71 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Hr Tom Mosen

    easier means for police and intelligence services, when it come to indictments of politicians, and rich people. harder sentences for oganized crime. and all corruption cases should be investigated as being treason towards the state, and organized crime.

    • avatar
      Isidro González

      Not a bad start. But bear in mind who usually the police works for, not to mention the intelligence agencies.

    • avatar

      Surely corruption is derived from power? So abolish power and you will abolish corruption. Good luck doing that. On a more serious note, one way to reduce corruption would be for complete financial transparency? Digitalise monetary systems globally and there will always be an electronic trail to follow that will show any fraudulent financial dealings. Of course, this would require good enforcement and strong prevention and punishment systems.

  2. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    Easy, close all tax havens, globally.
    Agree with the small island nations that depend on the meager tax levels for main revenue on a subsidy scheme by creating economic development (renewable energy, truism, transportation, education) in exchange for shutting down the tax havens.
    That would be the day.

    But it will never happen. Anti-corruption campaigns are often carried out as the crackdown on one oligarch-sphere by another.

    • avatar
      Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

      There is a very good book by Gabriel Zucman, “The Hidden Wealth of Nations”. You might find it interesting.

  3. avatar
    Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

    The European Commission is the only body in the EU that can propose legal acts to the European Parliament, be they directives or regulations. Moreover, there are a few areas, mostly related to the European common market, where the European Commission doesn’t need the approval of Parliament and sometimes not even the approval of the European Council. Unfortunately, legislation introduced by the European Commission is very often heavily influenced by corporate lobbies and there have been cases where whole chapters of EU regulation drafts matched lobbies’ working papers word for word. One of the main reasons for this is that many Commissioners have no actual expertise on the subject they are responsible for; take the example of Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, who speaks broken English and has never worked in anything ICT-related. They and their bureaus are thus happy to rely on lobbyists’ advice when it comes to the drafting of legislation. Furthermore, when the Parliament, which is dominated by a euroskeptic and pro-business majority, is asked for its consent on the Commission’s legislation, it often neither has the ability nor the time to do its job properly. This outsized influence of lobbies on the legislative process in the EU is the main problem and reason why people perceive the EU as corrupt.
    What can be done about it? Well, one of the most important things that need to change is that Parliament gets the possibility to propose legislation by itself and that we gradually replace the Commission with a proper government elected either directly by EU citizens (e.g. a presidential system like in the U.S.) or by the EU Parliament (e.g. a parliamentary system like in Germany). Another thing is that the legislative process, including drafts of legislation, should become more transparent, so that civil society organizations can do their job of monitoring the EU’s legislative activities.

    • avatar
      Stefania Portici

      mi piace quello che hai scritto ma l’Unione Europea non è come gli Stati Uniti D’America. Gli Usa hanno lo Stato e la moneta dollaro che sua, la UE no. Come può il Parlamento europeo legiferare senza avere il controllo politico ed economico ? La UE non ha moneta perchè non è uno Stato e lo Stato d’Europa non è possibile farlo , è contro , è vietato dalla Costituzione tedesca e non lo vogliono e sinceramente non lo vogliamo neanche noi

    • avatar
      Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

      @Stefania Portici: At the core of the European Union is the commitment to an “ever closer union”, i.e., which ultimately means a federation, e.g. the United States of Europe. This doesn’t mean that all EU members need to become members of this federation and certainly not all at the same time, but a federation there should be. Even though it doesn’t hold complete political and economic control, there are many areas over which the EP could legislate, especially since European law trumps national law in nearly all domains. I agree that a common currency would be a necessary condition for membership in any European federation, but why shouldn’t the Eurozone be the root of the U.S.E.? Btw, the German constitution doesn’t forbid anything in that area (not sure I understood you correctly, though). Anyway, this has little to do with the topic of the debate.

  4. avatar
    Michael Šimková

    Hard to say. It seems to be the very bedrock of our entire system of government. Politicians by and large don’t even seem know how to legislate or what their policies might do. They just take their cues from the same old lobbies. You’d need a more intelligent, engaged and civically active population get more intelligent politicians. It’s not an easy answer, but there you go.

  5. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Get rid of the beggar nations in the EU.

    Force the likes of Germany and France to let the media to investigate their political elites 247365.

    Make all politicians’ bank accounts available to the public 247365.

    Only allow people to be politicians if they have done a ‘proper’ job for 5 years first and too done a professional ‘political practice’ degree.

    Get rid of the ECJ.

    Migrate the EU institutions to reflect the demographic, economic and geographic realities of an EU-28.

    Divide the EU into sub-blocs eg:

    Scandinavia + Baltics.
    Spain + Portugal
    Visegrad 4
    Italy & Romania

    Wherein each bloc had only 1 – vote – this would simplify the EU decision-making process.

  6. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    I KNOW ! EU should build police force on over 100 000 to fight crime and corruption . EU police members should move from one EU to the next , also Swedish police should work in example Greece or Croatia like their own police . Lobbying should be declared illegal and we should destroy lobby groups . People elected for European Parliament are elected and paid by EU citizens , they should work for EU citizens and NOT for business and Arabs. They are well paid and if they don’t like it they can find a new work. The standard monthly payment for all MEPs is 7,957 euros (ÂŁ6,537). MEPs also get a flat-rate monthly allowance of 4,299 euros to cover office expenses, such as office rent, phone bills and computer equipment. A separate annual travel allowance – 4,243 euros maximum – covers official trips to other destinations.MEPs also get a daily subsistence allowance – now 304 euros – for attendance at parliamentary sessions. https://lobbyfacts.eu/reports/lobby-costs/all
    Refugees : EU refugee politics is scam. Muslim refugees only represent Muslim ambition in the EU . Muslim dream to make the EU to Muslim country. Muslims entering the EU are NOT refugees, refugees are people thet move away from fighting for some time until they stop fighting , after they go back home . Arabs entering the EU are NOT refugees but young man and they can bring their family after some time . They want to make the EU to Muslim country . The EU is going to collapse because people like myself don’t want to become minority in Muslim country .
    . Energy security : EU should STOP all oil and gas imports from Arab countries to destroy their ambitions . The EU should only import oil and gas from Norway , Russia , Canada and US .

    100% wind , solar and hydro is very simple and cheap to achieve.

    NOTHING is more simple and cheaper for the EU than to create energy security but the EU is barrier to it. I could do it , I could solve energy supply for the EU for the next 50 Years for less money then the EU spend under 5 Years for import of dirty energy . HOW ? The tariffs on Chinese made solar panels range from 100% to 110% , we should have it 0% and 0% on electric cars . Remove all tariffs on Chinese made solar panels and help EU manufacturing with example 0,2 Euro/Watt . 100% solar, wind and hydro is very cheap and clean option for the EU. Price for solar panels is under 0,5 Euro/Watt . EU could simple order 2000 gigawatt solar panels for 1000 billion Euro . EU should give for free 10 to 50 kW of solar panels to all EU citizens ( 10 – 500 kW to farmers) willing to install it by themselves . They should pay off those panels with electricity they don’t use also with electricity they send back to the grid. To install it like this is simple and cheap , it is like IKEA furniture : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04p6-zK5-o
    When we have energy we don’t need we should produce hydrogen and store it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNHwi6IryNI

  7. avatar
    Mihai Petru Ceuca

    Once you vote, the politicians forgets you and starts listening to big companies. This corruption is a way of life, togheter with the “political correct”. The EU comission fights for a economic union, to help big companies to expand, and never ever was about the social or cultural union.

  8. avatar

    Como eu já tenho andado a alertar à muito. Deveria haver maior fiscalização. Faz 3 anos fundei uma organização sem fins lucrativos de luta contra a fraude, tudo o que alertamos de fraudes contra a economia popular (IE: geteasy, telexfree etc) foram descuradas pelas autoridades para mais tarde serem acusadas de piramides financeiras em outros paises que não a Europa. Ou seja um cidadão ou organização não consegue vos abrir os olhos……. Enquanto além dos crimes contra a economia popular, o Governo continua na sua agenda, rendida ao poder economico, sãoi as grandes empresas que ameaçam sempre qualquer tentativa do poder politico fazer jus às suas promessas.

    Outro exemplo claro é haver 3 bancarrotas causados pela BANCA privada e após resgate a troika e FMI fazem os cidadãos pagar as dividas do privado. Isso do ponto de vista populista é uma fraude ao contribuinte. E no fim quando os donos da fraude saem impunes então temos toda essa novela explicada.

    Não se pode ser mais papista que o PAPA, mas também nós cidadãos não vemos o vosso trabalho a ser feito de forma a proteger os cidadãos, é TUDO SEMPRE FEITO EM PROL dos grandes e é isso que tem de mudar, enquanto não mudarem estão a destruir o futuro da zona Euro, com a crescente onda de populismo e non sense politico. Ainda vão a tempo de reverter tendencias.

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  9. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    Esistono diversi tipi di corruzione e i peggiori , di serie A , sono i signori della UE. Si combattono togliendogli l’arma di ricatto che è l’euro . Uscire ! Riprendersi la nostra Costituzione ed applicarla . E’ la nostra Costituzione che ci protegge dai corrotti feroci .

    There are different types of corruption and the worst, of series A, are the lords of the EU. They fight taking away the weapon of blackmail that is the euro. Go out ! Recover our Constitution and apply. And ‘our Constitution that protects us from fierce corrupt. .

    • avatar
      Stefania Portici

      ovviamente nel mondo ci sono corrotti di serie A , che non stanno nella UE ma quelli che ci riguardano stanno li ,a toglierci le nostre difese . Senza difese siamo in balia

  10. avatar

    Corruption is politicians conspiring behind closed doors with corporations and banks to screw the people. Bailouts for the rich, austerity for the poor. Trade treaty benefits for corporations and job losses for the workers.

    Barroso being a big example of that corruption. I wonder what benefits he provided for the Vampire Squid when he was in office.

    And I wonder what promises of future jobs have been made to the mad Malmstrom woman? I can’t think of any other reason why she wants to rescue that terrible TTIP treaty, there must be something in it for herself?

    Then there are the mainstream national politicians who always seem eager to backstab their own voters in order to secure “deals” in Brussels, with the prospect of future EU jobs dangled in front of them, I’m sure. No mainstream politician seems willing to do anything that might endanger such a future EU job.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    Lien on their assets the same way you do with drug dealers. Want to see how quick that message will stop these criminals from their betrayal of us all. If there is no win in it financially, there is no point in putting their neck on the line to bother to destroy us.

    Force those countries where they keep their off shore stash to pay up or face turmoil. Take away their yachts that look like liners and sell them off in an auction. And let them watch the sale with all their possessions aboard thrown in. Likewise with private jets, mansions and property portfolios. Even if they have passed it to their wives and kids as they cleverly manipulated the laws put there for them to do.

    That way, you enforce justice.

  12. avatar
    Manuel Alegria

    it may be easy to end corruption, or not…
    with more laws more punishment and other rules, corruption will prevail…
    with less and understandable laws, corruption will die…

  13. avatar
    Eugenia Serban

    EU should first and foremost work for people s interests not for corporation profit policies
    They don t listen to the nations, don t care about their will and needs
    The only way to stop coruption on its tracks is JUSTICE

  14. avatar
    Manuela Moura

    “EXPOSE anyone who is corrupt, whether Politician, Corporate sector or member of the public and of COURSE last but not least, BUREAUCRATS and civil servants!!!

  15. avatar
    Maria Rodrigues

    Think about changing economic policies in Europe and solve european crise, otherwise populism will pump in.

  16. avatar
    Faddi Zsolt

    Bankers, lobbists, managers. Take their wealth, cos it is stolen! Put them in jail for 5000 years.

  17. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Lock up king of the tax avoiders Juncker & his crooked unelected European Politburo.

  18. avatar
    Marko Martinović

    Transperency. Law that is equal for all. Goverment corruption should be treated as treason, and have high priority

  19. avatar
    José Luis Quiroz

    Killing all the politicians and high rank officers and public workers caught in some way of corruption.

    Death is the highest punishment and 5/10 to slowest.

    More power the person has highest is the penalty.

    The state most also take the good of the offender sell it and use the money to help social projects and education.

    Whent the children’s grow after years seeing people being kill for they mistakes. They will stop the punishment cuz as a society will be already aware of the danger os corruption. Just and ideia

    • avatar
      João Machado

      Exactly…… killing human beings… not educating them, killing them. That’s a Portuguese solution right here………….. Maybe we should kill extreme stupidity instead. I’d be totally up for that, yours could be the first to serve as an example……

    • avatar
      José Luis Quiroz

      Actually you are following the Portuguese standard.

      U teach the children and the young no at least 45 years old man and woman how comited act of corrupting harming his people.

      The political elite only care about they. They should be protecting us bad is doing opposit

  20. avatar
    Jorge Machado

    Take all the money off the Banks, keep it at home and start trading money with no recipe. Understand that big corruption is in your government and banks not in the people

  21. avatar
    Fabio Ferrari

    Transparency. If everyone knows how and where public officials’ money flow corruption will be severely reduced. Harsh punishment also helps, like lifelong ban from public offices and heavy fines

  22. avatar
    Yordan Vasilev

    I think, the way is more transparency and independent justice. The community itself should have the will to be clear.

  23. avatar
    Dóris Cavalcanti

    First of all, reduce by half, at least, 3rd. world people in Europe and watch them very close when they work in the government.

  24. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    togliere la libera circolazione dei capitali e il “corrotto” non sarà un problema per la società

    remove the free movement of capital and the “corrupt” will never be a problem for society

  25. avatar
    Bobi Dochev

    The only solution is Minimum administration!
    Minimum administration – minimum corruption.
    And complete transparency -there shouldn’t have any “commercial secrets” when we are talking for the interest of the society!!!

  26. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Tax havens, tax loopholes, tax breaks, corporate welfare, corporate lobbyists, big banking, favours owed to political donaters of money, blackmailable people in positions of power. What do you expect? Too much power and public money has been given away by governing bodies to the already mega-rich. Just reverse this, take your power back, regulate and tax the mega-rich corporations, add transparency and put people and the planet first.

  27. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto vestias

    European citizens have full right to know about European tax evaders since it affects each and every European when the rain comes tirty water goes away and also the water come during the change corruption can not have help that is the Earth watering

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