People and Corruption: Europe and Central Asia
Europe has seen a surge in recent years of support for populist and nationalist movements – from Spain to the UK to Turkey. The reasons are manifold and complex, but are driven to a large degree by the belief that traditional democratic institutions – governments, political parties – are failing to deliver on promises of prosperity and equal opportunity and that they cannot be trusted.
Corruption is central to this story – both the failure of governments to properly address corruption and their complicity in corrupt or clientelist schemes. It has become impossible to ignore systemic corruption in the way business influences politics, as shown by the on-going trial of 37 executives and politicians in Spain who are alleged to have been involved in a “kickbacks-for-contracts” scheme for nearly a decade. Examples such as this can give ordinary citizens the impression that public spending and public policy is distorted to favour the few over the many.
This impression has been compounded by the prevalence of “cosier” forms of corruption, such as the conflict of interests – real and perceived – posed by hidden lobbying and the “revolving door” between the public and private sectors. The public outrage at the decision of former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to accept a position with Goldman Sachs, which generated over 100,000 petition signatures calling for tough sanctions, shows how expectations about greater integrity in politics and business are mobilising citizen action. This report shines a light on how extensive citizens from across Europe and Central Asia perceive the corruption problem to be and what actions they consider to be effective in order to address it.