Greece takes bottom spot in graft index

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By Gareth Jones

Berlin - Greece has scored the worst ranking of all 27 European Union nations in a global league table of perceived official corruption, falling below ex-communist Bulgaria as public anger about graft soars during the country's crisis.

The index on state sector corruption, published by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) on Wednesday, also showed other struggling euro zone countries scoring poorly such as Italy which ranked below Romania.

Releasing its annual corruption perceptions index, Berlin-based TI urged European and other governments to try much harder to turn promises of fighting graft into action in areas such as public tenders, political party financing and tax evasion.

“The results of the survey should be a warning signal for the EU to require more information and accountability from its member states,” said TI's EU analyst Jana Mittermaier, adding that this should apply also to current efforts to establish European banking oversight.

Weak or inefficient judicial systems, poor public audit services and cosy ties between government and business all contribute to perceptions of corruption in some European countries, she said.

TI's index, which this year ranks 176 countries, measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels due to the secrecy that surrounds most corrupt dealings.

Greece took 94th place, below the poorer, newer democracies such as Bulgaria and Romania. Italy was placed 72nd, just ahead of Bulgaria at 75th but behind Romania on 66th.

In the 2011 index, Greece was 80th with Bulgaria scoring worst among the EU nations in 86th place.

Greeks have long complained about corruption but anger has soared, particularly about tax evasion among the rich, as the government has imposed wave after wave of austerity that the country's international lenders have demanded.

The EU has kept Bulgaria and Romania out of its Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel between member states, due to concerns about corruption. A recent study showed Bulgarians gave about 150,000 bribes to civil servants every month last year, more than in 2010.

Portugal and Ireland, which like Greece have received euro zone bailouts, were placed 33 and 25 respectively in the table.

TI cautioned that the 2012 rankings did not entirely reflect relatively recent developments such as the advent of a reform-minded Italian government because some of the research shaping the index dated back more than a year. - Reuters


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