By Deirdre Tynan • 15 June 2021 • 12:34
Spaniards think corruption is getting worse.
Countries in the European Union, including Spain, are known for being wealthy, stable and democratic. However, this clean image is undermined by issues ranging from regional inequality and erosion of the rule of law to corruption problems and more than a third of Spaniards thought corruption has grown worse in the past year.
Transparency International’s new Global Corruption Barometer – EU 2021 is one of the largest, most detailed surveys of people’s views and experiences of corruption across the bloc.
The organisation surveyed 40,000 people in all 27 EU countries. The results reveal that 32 per cent of people think corruption is getting worse in their country. In Spain that figure rises to 34 per cent.
A further 44 per cent in the EU think it is not getting any better. People in the EU increasingly scrutinise the cosy relationship between business and government. When it is unclear what ties policymakers have to the business community, there is a risk that policies and regulations are made in favour of narrow private interests, rather than the common good.
The survey found that less than a third of people think their government takes their views into account when making decisions and around half think that bribes or connections are commonly used by businesses to secure profitable government contracts and that big companies often avoid paying their taxes.
Two thirds of people in the EU think that government corruption is a problem in their country. This is made worse by widespread perceptions of impunity, with only 21 per cent of people believing that officials often face appropriate penalties for corruption.
Citizens are divided about which institutions have the biggest corruption problems. In half of EU countries, prime ministers and members of parliament are seen as the most corrupt. In the other half, it is business executives and bankers. Sixty-four percent of Spaniards think the Spanish government is controlled by private interests.
Yet trust in the police, local governments and the courts is high across the region. More than 60 per cent of EU residents reported trusting these institutions.
While bribery rates remain low at seven per cent, the survey found that around three in ten people used a personal connection to access health care, education and other public services. This is equivalent to more than 106 million people across the bloc.
Health care is a hotspot for corruption. This is of particular concern during the current Covid-19 pandemic, when citizens urgently need medical support and vaccinations. Although just six per cent of people paid a bribe for health care, 29 per cent of EU residents have used personal connections to receive medical attention. In Spain, between 40 to 59 per cent of citizens surveyed admitted to using private connections to secure better health treatment.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International, said, “During a health crisis, using personal connections to access public services can be as damaging as paying bribes. Lives can be lost when connected people get a Covid-19 vaccine or medical treatment before those with more urgent needs. It’s crucial that governments across the EU redouble their efforts to ensure a fair and equitable recovery from the ongoing pandemic.”
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Deirdre Tynan is an award-winning journalist who enjoys bringing the best in news reporting to Spain’s largest English-language newspaper, Euro Weekly News. She has previously worked at The Mirror, Ireland on Sunday and for news agencies, media outlets and international organisations in America, Europe and Asia. A huge fan of British politics and newspapers, Deirdre is equally fascinated by the political scene in Madrid and Sevilla. She moved to Spain in 2018 and is based in Jaen.
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