The European Commission's first ever report on corruption in the 28-member bloc has found that graft is widespread in many nations. The report warned not enough was being done to rein in underlying conflicts of interest.
The EU executive's report placed the bloc in a rather unflattering light, finding that, among a large number of businesses, belief was widespread that the only way to succeed was through political connections.
Respondents from almost all firms in Greece, Spain and Italy considered graft omnipresent, and it was rarest in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, with the findings corresponding with Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.
"Corruption undermines citizens' confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law," EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom (pictured) said in a statement. "It hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue."
Revolving door policy
According to the report, construction companies tendering for government contracts were most affected, with eight in ten of those surveyed complaining about corruption.
Overall, 43 percent of companies see graft as a major problem, with Brussels putting the loss to the economy at 120 billion euros ($162 billion) annually, almost the size of Romania's GDP.
According to the Commission, there has been a failure to regulate politicians' conflicts of interest in dealing with business.
The remark came shortly after a political storm was created in Germany by Chancellor Angela Merkel's former chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla, announcing his resolve to immediately move on to the board of the state-owned railway operator Deutsche Bahn.
hg/mkg (dpa, Reuters)