The European Union’s Home Affairs Commissioner has admitted that corruption across the European Union is “breathtaking” and could account for as much as $160bn lost every year, a figure around seven times larger than Britain’s annual contribution to the EU.
Cecilia Malmstroem, who is set to reveal further information about her first EU Anti-Corruption Report today, said, “The extent of the problem in Europe is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems.”
But instead of indicting the European Union as inherently corrupt, the paper may indeed be just another ploy by the European super-state in an attempt to grab anti-fraud powers from national governments, where they currently reside.
While the EU has its own anti-fraud unit, Europhiles argue that its scope and budget is too small, at around €23m ($31m) a year, while Eurosceptics–those who want Britain out of the European Union and a return to national sovereignty–have claimed the situation would be far worse if powers were centralised in Brussels.
While white collar crimes like bribery and tax fraud are said to plague many EU countries, there are also concerns over procurement fraud and party financing.
The study, which was commissioned in 2011 and is set to report every two years, also included a “Eurobarometer” poll, which found that 99 percent of respondents in Greece believed corruption was endemic within their country. In Italy, the figure was 97 percent, while Lithuania, Spain, and the Czech Republic came in at 95 percent.
In stark contrast, 64 percent in the United Kingdom thought corruption was widespread in their country, against an EU average of 76 percent. The UK also has the EU’s lowest proportion of respondents who say they have been asked or expected to pay a bribe over the previous 12 months: zero percent, against an EU average of four percent and an EU max of 29 percent.
But the problems may have something to do with the structure of the European Union itself, rather than simply with how national governments arrange their affairs, with some pointing to how the EU apportions money handed out from Brussels as the driving factor behind much of the corruption.
British Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan, author of Why America Must Not Follow Europe, told Breitbart News exclusively, “It’s a structural problem. When the EU places a pot of money within reach, some people will begin to arrange their affairs around qualifying for it. The national authorities have no incentive to police the grants, since it’s all ‘Brussels money’; and the EU is happy to hand it out indiscriminately, so pulling more and more people into the system.”
The report presents various recommendations to help stem corruption across the continent, such as “strengthening accountability and integrity standards, improving the effectiveness of criminal justice systems, and taking more determined measures to ensure the transparency of lobbying.”
But some have different ideas as to how corruption can be avoided across the EU. A spokesman for UKIP, Britain’s growing Eurosceptic party, told Breitbart News exclusively: “The best way to make sure taxpayers’ money is not fraudulently abused by the EU is for us to cease paying the EU membership fee.”
The report states that the European Commission will now aim to launch “a wide debate about anti-corruption measures with active participation of the Member States, the European Parliament, national parliaments, the private sector and civil society”.