Repeated vows to crack down on graft in Greece have done nothing to slow bribery and payoffs with the country keeping the dubious dishonor of being the most corrupt in the European Union and rated on a par with China.
That was the finding by the Berlin-based NGO Transparency International (TI) 2013 list released on Dec. 3 that showed Denmark and New Zealand are the least corrupt countries in the world, while Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are the most corrupt.
The ranking is based on an analysis of public sector corruption on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Seven of the 28 EU member states scored below 50. Besides Denmark, as usual, the Scandinavian countries that have laws against corruption and enforce them, such as Finland and Sweden, while those with a reputation of flouting the law continue to rank the worst, such as Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, as has virtually all previous premiers, said he would go after the corrupt but the TI listing showed the government’s promises have been a failure and that the passing of “fakelaki,” envelopes stuffed with cash to pay civil servants, politicians, driving license officials, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and virtually everyone to get a service done continues unabated.
When the 2012 list was released a year ago, TI’s Athens office head, Costas Bakouris, said Greece’s debt problems and graft were inextricably linked. “The economic crisis is connected to corruption and the fight against it is one of the keys for Greece to emerge from its fiscal woes,” he said.
The rankings were essentially redundant as they continued to show the same bad actors and good actors with very little change.
“The major movements, they are not dramatic, but you see that Spain and Slovenia dropped, whereas Estonia, Latvia, and Greece have improved by four points,” said Carl Dolan, TI’s EU office director, putting a glimmer of optimism on otherwise grim news: Greece is still very corrupt but not very, very corrupt.
While still at the bottom of the EU list, Greece made slight improvements compared to last year’s score of 36. Spain dropped to 59, compared to 65 in 2012. Slovenia slipped by four points to 57. Last week the anti-corruption commissioner Goran Klemencic resigned in protest over a “silent alliance” to block anti-fraud laws leaving the corrupt to run amok.
Dolan said corruption scandals on political party financing and lack of adequate protection for whistleblowers has undermined people’s confidence in the government, just as the NGO says every year and nothing changes anyway. “The ease with which dirty money can evade detection are problems that require a collective response from EU and national leaders,” he noted, recommendations that are annually ignored.
Meanwhile, many non-European countries scored well, with New Zealand sharing the top spot with Denmark and Uruguay, the Bahamas, and Chile all scored 71 along with France. Germany slipped a point from last year and scored 78, but is still ranked in the top 12.
The worst performers are Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia, on just eight points each.
Huguette Labelle, TI’s Chairman, said: “The better performers face issues like state capture, campaign finance and the oversight of big public contracts which remain major corruption risks.” The EU, for its part, is set to publish its first anti-corruption report early next year.