Corruption costs Europe $162 billion a year, or around one percent of economic output, according to the first ever report on graft in the 28-nation European Union by the executive European Commission.
The report published on Monday places the EU, often portrayed as one of the globe’s cleanest regions, in an unflattering light. Among businesses, belief is widespread that the only way to succeed is through political connections and almost half of the companies doing business in Europe say corruption is a problem for them.
A rising number of EU citizens think it is getting worse, although experiences of corruption vary across the bloc. Almost all firms in Greece, Spain and Italy believe it is widespread.
It is considered rare in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
That mirrors the findings of Transparency International’s corruption perception index. It named Greece as the worst performer in the EU, sharing 80th place with China. Denmark was seen as the least corrupt.
“Corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Many EU citizens believe corruption has become worse as a result of the deep economic and financial problems in the euro zone zone brought on by the sovereign debt crisis, the Commission survey showed.
“In a time of appalling economic and financial crisis, recovering for the legal economy the money deviated by defrauders is of utmost importance; those funds are very much needed to foster growth and jobs,” said Spain’s Juan Fernando López Aguilar, who chairs the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
Construction companies, which often tender for government contracts, are the most affected.