The anti-corruption NGO said there is a strong correlation between fiscal deficits and corruption in crisis-hit countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain. But countries considered the "cleanest of the clean" have also deficits in their anti-corruption framework.
Links between corruption and the financial and fiscal crisis should no longer be ignored, Transparency International (TI) said. Greece, Portugal and Spain were underscored as countries where "inefficiency, malpractice and corruption are neither sufficiently controlled nor sanctioned."
The transparency watchdog investigates in its report, titled Money, Politics, Power – Corruption risks in Europe, more than 300 national institutions across 25 states. "There is a huge variation across Europe", Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International said. "But no country comes out of the report performing well in all areas."
In Greece, the NGO found out that only 2% of civil servants had undergone through disciplinary procedures, "despite extensive reported cases of corruption." TI also questioned the independence of Greece's Court of Auditors, as it was accountable to the executive and not to the parliament. But also in Portugal and Spain auditing institutions performed "well below the regional average".
Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German liberal MEP or Greek origin, slammed Greece by saying that "93% of the Greek administration is useless.”
Corruption, as defined by Transparency International was inherent in the Greek system of ‘clientelism’, Chatzimarkakis argued. He fiercely promoted his so-called Iolaos-plan. Chatzimarkakis wants to send Greeks working for EU institutions to Athens "to transfer the mentality of a European administration."
The report, however, was also critical of EU institutions. At the EU level, there was room for improvement in the transparency of political parties.
Furthermore, TI criticised the voluntary nature of the lobbying register in Brussels. Also, the code of conduct for EU parliamentarians did not prevent MEPs from moving straight into lobbying jobs after the end of their mandate.
Dennis De Jong, centre-left MEP from the Netherlands, admitted: "There is also immediate homework for the EU institutions when it comes to access of information." De Jong criticised the common practice that parliamentarians should not accept any gift over €150, as being too high. He argued in favour of reducing this limit to €50.
By and large, the report highlights the strengths and weaknesses in individual states. Nineteen of the 25 countries surveyed have not yet regulated lobbying, while currently only ten ban undisclosed political donations. Twenty countries present obstacles to citizens seeking access to information, while 17 lack codes of conduct for their parliamentarians.
But even those countries that are very often considered to be the "cleanest of the clean" were far from immune to corruption, the report states. Germany, for instance, so far has not ratified the UN Convention against Corruption.
Although the country overall received good grades from the international watchdog, there was still plenty of room for improvement. Among other bad marks, Germany is seen failing to adequately regulate lobbying. The report heavily criticises the threshold of political donations as being too high. Indeed, political parties are asked to disclose the donor in their annual financial statement if the contribution exceeds €10.000 a year.