EU Corruption Report: the good, the bad and the ugly

On Monday, EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström gave one more nudge to the EU boat when she reported her findings of the state of corruption within the EU member states. One number stood out : its cost (120 billion €/year), which indicates how much better we could do.

We are simply not doing enough. That is true for all Member States. Existing laws and policies are not enforced enough, and a firm political commitment to root out corruption still seems to be missing. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs (Sweden)

Yet we have to be careful. While the Commissioner’s recommendations are worth considering for future legal developments, most EU member states remain among the least corrupted countries in the world, according to Transparency International.

Why, then, is perception of corruption so high? Because it is just that: perception. In every single member state described in the report, there is a clear discrepancy between the number of people thinking their country is corrupted, and those having actually witnessed or taken part in an act of corruption.

We are arguably going through a period of economic and identity crisis. Its seriousness may depend on the country under scrutiny, but nonetheless affects the degree of confidence the population has in its direct environment.

Also, let’s be real: corruption in Europe does not have the same definition than in some African or Asian countries. We are not talking about having to bribe an official to use a road or get a passport!

Key conclusions on corruption in France 

  • No nation-wide strategy to fight corruption
  • Need for better control mechanisms for public procurement (55% believe the main problem is collusive bidding)
  • Not enough regulation of lobbying. A good example: public servants do not have to report their contacts with lobbies. There is always the possibility to voluntarily register on a lobbying list (one for the Assemblée Nationale, one for the Senate), but relatively few lobbies actually do.
  • Satisfying record in terms of prosecuting corruption practices within the country, but not in the case of international business transactions
  • Good practice : the creation of specialized inter-regional jurisdictions  ( judges focusing on organized and financial crimes and assisted by a team of experts coming from both the private and public sector). BUT need to better guarantee the independence of prosecutors in general
  • “Crisis of trust” when it comes to the relationship between the French government and its population

Once again, these critics are valuable feedback, but this is actually nothing new: Transparency International has been publishing similar recommendations for a number of years.

Some figures to remember (country sheet)

76% of Europeans consider corruption to be widespread in their country, as opposed to 68% in France.

6% of French feel personally affected by corruption (EU average: 26%).

6 out of 10 French companies consider corruption to be an obstacle to business, as opposed to 4 out of 10 in the EU as a whole.

Click here to read the full chapter on France.