23 June 2021


The Global Corruption Barometer reveals that corruption is on the rise in the European Union

by The Good Lobby - Alicia Thilmont

Corruption is on the rise in the European Union. Transparency International just released the findings of their 2021 report “Global Corruption Barometer” which provides an in-depth look at people’s views on corruption, their experiences of bribery and favouritism across the bloc. Unfortunately, the results of that report are not very encouraging and highlight the lack of transparency within the EU. 


Key findings on corruption and transparency for the year 2020 


The covid-19 pandemic clearly exacerbated the lack of transparency in the EU. According to the report, the perception of corruption grew in all EU member states and increased mainly in Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Cyprus. A third of people think corruption increased in their country in the previous 12 months, while 44% think it stayed the same. 

The Covid- 19 pandemic has clearly played a role in these perceptions as the healthcare sector was identified as particularly susceptible to corruption among respondents. Indeed, more than 60% of Europeans consider corruption to be a problem in their own national government especially regarding non-transparent mask procurement or allocation of recovery funds. Three-quarters of respondents say that corruption in their country is stagnating, or even getting worse.


Key findings from Transparency International Report Global Corruption Barometer European Union 2021.


Integrity issues in both public and private sectors is also on the rise, in almost half the countries, prime ministers and members of parliament are seen as the most corrupt. In the other half, it is business executives and bankers. Over half of people see governments as being run by a few private interests and awarding contracts to cronies and bribe payers. 


Impunity is common money among the EU


The lack of trust towards the public and private sectors by citizens comes also with a widespread sense of impunity in the case of corrupt politicians. Only 21% of people think that corrupt officials regularly face appropriate penalties. This percentage increases dramatically among certain countries such à Slovenia where two third of respondents are convinced that their government is not doing enough to fight corruption. 


Why is the Global Corruption Barometer that important these days? 


Corruption levels are rising in the European Union, cases of lack of transparency increase everyday and the Rule of Law is constantly challenged by governments, threatening the foundations of the EU. The 2020 presidential election campaign in Belarus for instance has been marked by an unprecedented atmosphere of fear, intimidation and massive human rights violations, compounded by a complete disregard for the rule of law, resulting in the dismantling of legal order. 

Taking into account and highlighting the lack of citizens’ trust in their own government is even more important as the fight for corruption doesn’t seem to be on the Commission’s agenda even though some steps have been made in terms of transparency. 


Alberto Alemanno, founder of The Good Lobby, reacted to the report, by stating that:

“Amid the unprecedented injection of EU funds into national economies, the European Union must take corruption seriously. Unless it will do so by working closely with its Member States, it will not only waste the transformational power of its recovery plan, but also its long term credibility.”


Daniel Freund, chairman of the European Parliament’s anti-corruption working group, comments:


“The findings of the study are alarming. They demonstrate clearly: corruption in EU member states is an enormous problem. It undermines citizens’ trust in our democracies. At the same time, member states and the EU Commission are doing too little to tackle the problem. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the perception of corruption has once again worsened significantly.

The problem will become much worse in the coming months. With the recovery funds, the European Union will hand out more money than ever before. At the same time, however, the EU is not investing enough in the fight against corruption. The newly created European Public Prosecutor’s Office does not have sufficient resources, and the existing rule of law mechanism is still not being applied.” source: Transparency International


How to fight against corruption in the EU?


Fighting corruption without a clean policy developed by the Commission is a hard task. Nevertheless, mobilisations of citizens, advocates, and organisations can have their own impact on fighting corruption or at least raise the alarms when it comes to corruption cases. 64% of EU residents think they can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

At The Good Lobby we mobilised frequently with different organisations as well as with The Good Lobby Profs to denounce corruption cases and demand for better Transparency at EU level. 


What is the Global Corruption Barometer?


The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – European Union 2021 provides an in-depth look at people’s views on corruption, as well as their experiences of bribery and favouritism across the bloc. It is one of the largest, most detailed surveys of citizens’ views on corruption, interviewing over 40,000 people across 27 EU countries. 


Read more of the findings on Transparency International website here.