Report reveals levels of corruption in popular European expat locations

by Ray Clancy on February 4, 2014

People considering moving to some of the most popular expat locations in Europe may be surprised by the findings of a new European Union report on corruption.

Covering all member states, it points out that corruption continues to be a challenge for Europe and costs the European economy around €120 billion per year.


Data shows that corruption costs the European economy around €120 billion per year

Even though some countries have taken many initiatives in recent years to combat corruption, the results are uneven and more should be done in all states to prevent and punish those involved, the report concludes.

Spain, one of the most popular countries with a big expat population, faces major challenges when it comes to political corruption, most notably in public spending at a regional and local level, the report says.

‘Although an anti-corruption legal framework is largely in place in Spain and law enforcement has shown good results in investigating corrupt practices, the report does show a certain number of deficiencies,’ the report explains.

It suggests that tailor made anti-corruption strategies for regional and local levels administrations are developed, that ongoing reforms and implementation of the new rules on party funding is pursued, and that comprehensive codes of conduct for elected officials with adequate accountability tools are developed.

In France, which also has a large expat population, legislative measures have recently been taken on the issue of conflicts of interests among politicians and public officials but the report says that corruption related risks in the public procurement sector and in international business transactions have not been addressed.

The European Commission suggests that France improves the legislation on foreign bribery, addresses the recommendations on party funding that have been raised by the Council of Europe, and makes efforts to increase the operational independence of prosecutors.

Greece has a lot of work to do to stamp out corruption, the report points out. Although there have been some positive steps, including the appointment of a national anti-corruption coordinator, the anti-corruption framework is described as ‘complex’ and struggles to deliver results. It recommends that increasing supervision of party funding and declarations of interests by politicians, and revisiting the issue of immunity, would also contribute to a better situation in Greece.

In Italy, the adoption of the anti-corruption law in November 2012 was a significant step forward in the fight against corruption, particularly prevention policies aiming at raising the level of accountability within public administration and political elites, the report says.

‘However, despite considerable efforts, corruption remains a serious challenge in Italy,’ the report points out, and recommends that Italy should strengthen the integrity regime for elected officials through ethical codes, including accountability tools.

‘Italy should also reinforce the legal and institutional framework on party funding. Furthermore, the deficiencies of the statute of limitation regime should be addressed without delay. More efforts are required with regard to conflicts of interest and asset disclosure of public officials, as well as control mechanisms around local and regional public spending,’ it adds.

The UK has one of the best anti-corruption records and ‘promotes high ethical standards of public service,’ the report says. One less strong area is the risks of foreign bribery in vulnerable industries such as defence. The European Commission suggests that the UK should ensure transparency in out of court settlements in corruption cases and accountability in the governance of banks could also be further strengthened. The Commission is also suggesting to cap donations to political parties, impose limits on electoral campaign spending and ensure proactive monitoring and prosecution of potential violations.

Germany is also one of the least corrupt countries in the EU, but still more can be done, the report says. Germany would benefit from the introduction of strict penalties for corruption of elected officials and should do something about its ‘revolving door’ phenomenon, where officials leave office to work for companies they may have recently helped.

Like the UK, the report adds that more could be done about foreign bribery amongst small and medium sized enterprises and Germany could also do more to address concerns over the way election campaigns are financed.

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