Corruption - commonly referred to as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain is a multi-sector phenomenon, present both in the public and private sector, and in the political arena. While corruption can take the form of petty crime or complex high-level corruption, it can also hide behind favouritism and nepotism, conflicts of interest and revolving doors – where business meets politics.
Corruption is harmful to society. It constitutes a threat to security as it enables and drives organised crime, terrorism, and other forms of crimes, including money laundering or drug trafficking. Corruption deepens inequalities, erodes citizens’ trust in public institutions, undermines good governance and social justice, and constitutes a serious threat to the rule of law, democracy, and fundamental rights. Corruption has also a negative impact on prosperity and economic growth by creating business uncertainty, lowering investment levels, hampering fair competition and reducing public finances. It also adversely affects government objectives that focus on improving income disparity and environmental protection.
The European Union is one of the least corrupt regions in the world. However, none of the EU countries is fully free from corruption. Although its nature and scope may differ from one EU country to another, corruption harms the EU as a whole:
- Corruption is estimated to cost the European Union between EUR 179 billion and EUR 990 billion per year, amounting to up to 6% of its GDP.
- 68% of Europeans believe that corruption is widespread in their countries and 41% think that it has increased in recent years (2022 Corruption Eurobarometer Survey).
- 34% of EU businesses consider corruption to be a problem in doing business, (2022 Eurobarometer survey: Business’ attitudes towards corruption).
- 59% of EU business agree with the statement that bribery and the use of connections is often the easiest way to obtain certain public services, (2022 Eurobarometer survey: Business’ attitudes towards corruption).
EU legislation on anti-corruption
The EU assists anti-corruption efforts through ensuring harmonised legislation.
EU Rule of Law Report
The aim of the Rule of Law Report is to look at key developments in the area of the rule of law across the whole EU – including corruption.
Corruption in organised crime
Corruption and organised crime are intrinsically linked and mutually reinforcing each other.
Protecting the EU’s financial interest
Protecting the Next Generation EU funds through various EU tools, services and agencies.
Fighting corruption at global level
Prevention and repression of corruption are at the heart of EU’s external policies.
How the EU helps Member States fight corruption
The Commission regularly organises anti-corruption experience-sharing. workshops across the EU and funds various projects in relation to the fight against corruption.
Corruption in the public opinion
The Commission carries out its own surveys on corruption involving citizens and businesses (Eurobarometer surveys).
EU’s approach to fight corruption
The European Commission's anti-corruption efforts are centred on the following main pillars:
- Mainstreaming anti-corruption provisions in EU law
- Monitoring efforts of EU countries in preventing and fighting corruption, and building dialogue with national anti-corruption contact points
- Supporting the implementation of anti-corruption measures at national level through funding, technical assistance and experience-sharing
- Improving the quantitative evidence-base for anti-corruption policy
- Promoting the fight against corruption globally, through the participation in relevant international anti-corruption meetings
- Updating and modernising the EU anti-corruption framework
While the true social cost of corruption cannot be measured merely by the amount of bribes paid or by public funds being diverted, corruption has socio-economic effects on governance, politics, business, and security. As such, corruption poses a serious threat to the EU and our citizens.
This is why the fight against corruption is a key political priority for the EU.