March 7, 2012
It is worthwhile taking a look at the perceived corruption levels in Europe, as measured by the Transparency International 2011 global scoreboard that ranks countries between 10 for the best and 0 for the worst performers.
There is a visible correlation between countries that are EU members and those that are not, the former obtaining better rankings than the latter.
The longer a country has been an EU member the lower normally its level of corruption. This is a logical consequence of membership. Indeed, the EU is a rule-based community that insists on good governance, the separation of powers and the rule of law. It obliges member countries to respect rules for competition and public procurement. When joining the EU. national administrations therefore have to rewrite their rule book and put a ban on business practices smacking of corruption.
- The nine countries that have been part of the EU before 1975 achieve rankings of more than seven.
Only Italy makes a sore exception with a ranking of only 3.9, due to ingrained Mafia practices, especially in the South. Italy must try much harder to suppress corruption, which would also improve its economic performance!
- The EU 9` of the 1980`s ranks slightly worse, due to Greece’s accession in 1981.
Despite 30 years of EU membership, Greece has not succeeded in improving its corruption record. Its score of only 3.4 is the lowest of among the 27 member states, with the exception of Bulgaria (3.3) which has only joined the EU five years ago. Century – old traditions proved to be stronger than the disciplinary powers of the EU machinery. The financial crisis in Greece has a direct bearing with the wide-spread corruption practices. It shows the need for the EU to become much more concerned about the level of corruption in member states and intervene directly.
- The enlargement to 27` in 2004/07 produced another deterioration of EU corruption levels, due to the arrival of 10 countries with half a century of communist experience, which has not been conducive to moral business standards.
None of the 10 Eastern EU countries, except Slovenia, has so far been able to score higher than 5, Bulgaria and Romania not even reaching 4. Much remains to be done to turn the page, but this will take time.
When crossing EU borders towards the East corruption standards plunge abruptly: not a single country reaches a score of 4; the two biggest neighbours – Russia and Ukraine – suffer from endemic corruption and are rated no higher than 2!
There is one positive exception among the Eastern neighbours: Turkey with a score of 4.2 is doing better than its direct EU neighbours Bulgaria and Greece.
The EU should draw one policy conclusion from this analysis: take a much closer look at what is going in member states in terms of corruption. High corruption levels may become a source of serious economic woes, as Greece seems to demonstrate. Corruption levels are -like debt levels – crucially relevant for the entire EU and must not be left to the discretion individual member countries! Such a attention will be desperately needed in view of forthcoming accessions of more corrupt countries in the Balkans.
Author : Eberhard Rhein