Denmark and Finland least corrupt EU countries
by Daniel Mason
The Nordic region continued to dominate the leaderboard of the least corrupt countries in the world – but most European Union countries lost some ground as a result of the financial crisis, according to the latest rankings published by Transparency International.
The corruption perception index took data from 17 surveys across 183 countries, and measured factors including anti-corruption laws, conflicts of interest and access to information. Countries were scored on a scale of zero to 10, where zero was the most corrupt.
Denmark and Finland were the highest placed EU countries in joint second, each scoring 9.4. Sweden in fourth place was the only other European nation to score more than nine points. Non-EU member Norway and candidate country Iceland placed sixth and 13th respectively.
The Netherlands appeared in the top 10 while Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Ireland made the top 20. However, most EU countries slid down the scale to some degree, with Denmark losing out to New Zealand after topping the table last year. Of the EU countries only France, in 25th place with seven points, the UK and Germany improved their score.
Transparency International's chairwoman Huguette Labelle said: "This year we have seen corruption on protesters' banners be they rich or poor. Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government."
The countries most affected by the financial crisis were among the most corrupt in Europe. Bulgaria, with 3.3 points in 86th position, and Greece in 80th with a score of 3.4, were the lowest ranked EU countries. Italy and Romania also scored fewer than four points.
"Corruption has allowed the black economy to thrive for too long, at the expense of the real economy and real people," said Jana Mittermaier, the head of Transparency International's liaison office to the EU in Brussels.
"The cost of allowing tax evasion, bribery and other illicit practices to become the norm has been made very clear to us by a year of debt crisis in countries such as Italy and Greece. Whatever future emerges from the crisis, our public institutions have a lost to do to prevent the next crisis, and win back public trust."
Two thirds of countries scored fewer than five points, with Somalia and North Korea bottom of the table on one point each. Afghanistan and Iraq scored just 1.5 and 1.8 respectively, while most countries involved in the Arab spring finished in the bottom half. The United States was placed 24th.