Has the financial crisis worsened a corruption problem? That's the conclusion of a corruption index, which looked at bribery in public offices in Europe. Transparency in Germany could also be improved.
Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, released in Berlin on Wednesday (05.12.2012), pointed to increased corruption in Greece. In light of its economic collapse and looming threat of state bankruptcy, corruption among state officials and members of the government was the highest in all of Europe, according to the report.
Greece falls in index
Greece received 36 of 100 possible points in the report, which was compiled by evaluating opinions and estimates from independent experts. In the index's scale, 100 points represents little corruption, while zero would be very corrupt. Corruption counts as when public officials gain personal advantage from power.
That Greece was ranked in position 94 of the 174 on the report - a spot it shared with Colombia, Djibouti and India - is a wake-up call for Transparency Germany's director Edda Müller. Greece should greatly step up its building out of powerful structures like tax offices, she said.
Müller suggested this same step for other southeast European countries struck by the financial crisis, linking economics and corruption, "The risk of corruption in those countries is closely linked with the economic and general stability of that country."
Italy also stood out, with 42 points sharing spot 72 with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The perception of cronyism and bribery in Italy is not much better than in China, which took 80th place.
Spain and Portugal, though both were also severely hit by the crisis, performed somewhat better, ranking with many eastern European countries in the 30 to 50 point range.
Germany lacking transparency
Germany stood at 13th place worldwide, with 79 points - above countries such as Japan, the United States and France.
But Müller said she thinks that's no cause for celebration, pointing to Germany's failure to ratify a 2003 United Nations anti-corruption convention. "It's high time for Germany to prove its credibility in the fight against corruption, and close this legal gap," she said.
Critics of the treaty said its ratification would prevent parliamentarians from meeting with representatives of economic interests without raising suspicion of bribery. Müller replied that the role of transparency, particularly with regard to access to information and clear regulation for public officials, should outweigh other concerns.
Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were assessed as the world's least-corrupt nations, falling into the 90 to 100-point range. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia received only eight points each. These countries "suffer from non-functional structures of public administration and particularly weak accountability," Müller explained.