It was International Anti-Corruption Day on Saturday – a good day, as I wrote in the Balkanist, to raise a glass and remember that Bulgaria, the most corrupt country in the European Union, is taking over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU* in three weeks.
Only after writing that piece did I see new survey numbers that had just come out from a recent Special Eurobarometer survey on corruption in the EU. Ah well.
As you might have guessed, the numbers for Bulgaria aren’t good.
There’s a full report and a 20-page summary report available, so I’ll just rehash a few of the key (damning) findings about perceptions of corruption in Bulgaria, but still enough to make me feel like I’m suffering from some post-International Anti-Corruption Day makhmurluk:
- It’s not just that Bulgarians think there’s corruption in their public institutions – many feel that it’s actually getting worse.
- When asked whether there was corruption in local or regional public institutions, 86% of Bulgarians said there was. This isn’t just one of the highest figures in the EU – it’s increased 7% since the 2013 survey asking the same questions, which is the biggest increase in the EU.
- As for corruption in national public institutions, 87% of Bulgarians said there was, again one of highest – and, again, the biggest increase since 2013 (5%), which is also especially striking given that this figure increased in just four of the 28 EU countries.
- Only 14% of Bulgarians think there’s sufficient transparency and supervision of the financing of political parties, the lowest in the EU (but still risen from 9% in 2013).
- Only 13% think there are enough successful prosecutions in the country to deter people from corrupt practices. Yes, the lowest.
- 83% of Bulgarians, second only to Greece, think that high-level corruption cases are not pursued sufficiently in the country.
- Are measures against corruption applied impartially and without ulterior motives? Only 15% of Bulgarians say so – the lowest in the EU.
- In 20 of the 28 EU countries, there’s been an increase in the proportion of respondents who think government efforts to combat corruption are effective. Bulgaria’s not one of them – only 15% agree, the second worst in the EU behind Latvia.
- Bulgarians don’t know where to report corruption: only 28% say they know where they’d report an act of corruption, with only Hungary being lower. Worse, this figure’s declined 15% (!!) since 2013, the biggest decrease in any EU country.
- Bulgarians aren’t particularly trusting of the police and/or customs, and they’re getting more distrustful over time:
- When asked who they’d trust most to deal with a case of corruption they’d complained about, 25% of Bulgarians identified the police, compared to a 60% average across the EU; that figure’s dropped 11% since 2013.
- Worse, when asked whether they felt the giving and taking of bribes and abuse of power for personal gain was widespread across a number of institutions, 71% of Bulgarians named police/customs. This was the highest in the EU and the most common response in Bulgaria – only Latvia had police/customs as a most common response. For reference, the EU average is 31%.
These figures don’t make one feel all that confident about Bulgaria’s fight against corruption. Bulgarians themselves certainly don’t seem to be.
*not the “European Council” as I wrote in my piece, and I think I’ve inadvertently written before. That president is Donald Tusk. Having confusingly similarly-named institutions is a great idea, guys.