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Greek corruption worth €800 million a year July 4, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Yunanistan.
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With Greece feeling the pressure from member states, the EU Commission and the International Monetary Fund to get a grip on its public spending, a transparency watchdog has estimated that the cost of bribes paid out by Greek citizens for public and private services is at least e800 million a year.

“Corruption is one of the main reasons why we have this economic crisis in Greece. It’s not the only one, but it’s a very important one,” said Aris Syngros, head of Transparency International’s office in Greece, on Thursday during a hearing in the European Parliament.

He presented the results of a survey carried out in the second half of 2009 which puts the cost of day-to-day corruption between e717 million and e857 million, an increase by some e40 million compared to results published a year before.

The calculation is based on telephone interviews with a sample of 6,122 individuals, carried out between July and December 2009.

The survey shows that the public sector in Greece is the most prone to corruption, with 9.3 per cent of households reporting that they were asked to pay a bribe in order to speed up administrative processes, receive fair treatment in hospitals or avoid a penalty for traffic offences. The average bribe paid in 2009 for public services was e1,355.

But private companies and services also ask for bribes, as 5.3 per cent of the people who participated in the survey admitted paying an average e1,671 to the private sector.

Mr Syngros stressed that the study does not include high level corruption cases or big tax evasion schemes, which would put the figures much higher.

“Corruption is not something we can’t see or touch. It’s real money, drained away from the real economy. Everybody speaks about recovery, growth, jobs, but without fighting corruption, this won’t work,” he said, urging the European Commission to put pressure on the Greek government to implement a far-reaching anti-corruption strategy.

“So far, the EU has been like a spectator at a football match. We need a more active EU, that goes down on the field and is part of developing solutions.”

On the same day, back in Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou once more acknowledged that “funds are being wasted this very minute into a black hole of mismanagement, corruption and waste.”

He was speaking about spiralling public health costs, stressing that the solution was not extra money, but reducing wasteful spending.

Greece spent e11 billion on health and pensions in 2009 and has cut the bill by e0.8 billion for spending in these areas this year.

A commission official present at the hearing in Brussels pointed out that the EU-IMF bailout package of e110 billion included requirements on tax evasion and on the defence sector, which is prone to corruption in many other countries as well.

The EU executive is now looking at ways of extending monitoring of anti-corruption efforts in all member states, as government and private corruption scandals ranging from defence contracts in Portugal to companies such as Siemens and Volkswagen continue to pop up, with Transparency International noting a worsening of the corruption perception in most EU countries.

“It’s a question of credibility for the EU: if we present ourselves at international level as upholding a certain standard, we have to do more at home as well. We are now working on a mechanism of periodical reporting on anti-corruption efforts within the EU,” a commission official said.

Romanian centre-right MEP Monica Macovei, a former justice minister, also noted that the EU had no way of putting pressure on countries, once they became members. “We only ask candidate countries to meet certain criteria on justice reform and anti-corruption measures. But once they’re in, there is nothing – no acquis, no pressure. That’s why we need this mechanism,” she said.

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