Bulgaria’s failings in dealing with corruption are well-known, thanks to the ongoing monitoring by EU, but the issue remains a challenge for the entire bloc, costing it 120 billion euro a year, according to a new EU report.
Despite efforts pursued by individual member states, their results “are uneven and more should be done to prevent and punish corruption”, the European Commission said in its first EU Anti-Corruption Report on February 3.
“Corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives States from much-needed tax revenue. Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough,” EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmström said.
In Bulgaria’s case, fighting corruption has long been a priority for the country, the EC said, with legal reforms resulting in the establishment of new structures, but corruption remains widespread.
The EC suggested that Bulgaria should shield anti-corruption institutions from political influence and appoint their management in a transparent, merit-based procedure. Random assignment of cases in courts should be ensured by an effective nationwide system.
The Commission also suggested that a code of ethics is adopted for members of the National Assembly, and that dissuasive sanctions for corruption in public procurement are enforced at national and local level. (The full report is available here.)
EC’s anti-corruption report was accompanied by a new Eurobarometer special survey, which showed that 76 per cent of EU’s population believed corruption to be widespread in their home country (in Bulgaria’s case, that figure was higher at 84 per cent of respondents).
Four per cent of Europeans, and 11 per cent of Bulgarians, say that they have been asked or expected to pay a bribe in the past year. Only nine per cent of Bulgarians – the lowest percentage in the EU – consider that there are sufficient prosecutions to deter people from corrupt practices.
A total of 16 per cent of Bulgarians agreed that government efforts to combat corruption were effective, one of the lowest figures in the EU, but also the largest drop (13 percentage points) from the previous Eurobarometer special survey on the issue, carried out in 2011.
At the same time, Bulgaria shows the greatest fall in the proportion of people thinking that they are affected by corruption in their daily lives – only 21 per cent agreed with this statement in the latest Eurobarometer, compared to 45 per cent in the previous survey.
And yet, Bulgaria routinely ranked in the top third of countries with perceived corruption problems (as expressed by the residents of those countries), although the numbers were somewhat skewed (compared to other EU countries) by the fact that the Bulgarian survey consistently showed some of the largest proportions of respondents unable to express an opinion on the questions asked in the survey. The full Eurobarometer survey is available here.
(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)