Irish

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Europe says corruption prosecutions in Ireland should be faster

Ailish O'Hora

Published 03/02/2014|13:16

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An ambulance carrying former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase speeds away after he allegedly tried to commit suicide in his house in Bucharest. Photo: Getty Images

A report from the European Commission issued today has said that corruption prosecutions in Ireland should be processed faster.

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It also found that there are still corruption concerns surrounding elections, referenda and political party funding here.

On a more positive note, it said that Ireland has "undertaken substantial reforms in its anti-corruption policies" and had "improved transparency around party funding and taken steps to respond to public concern".

According to the report, 81pc of Irish people believe corruption is widespread while 3pc said they had paid a bribe, or expected to, in the past year.

The report added: "However, more work could be done to improve the capacity to prosecute and punish corruption cases in a timely manner.

"Further work could also be required to address the few remaining concerns around the funding of political parties, election and referendum campaigns and corruption risks related to conflicts of interest at local level, as well as in the area of urban planning."

Corruption is a problem for almost half the companies doing business in Europe, the survey said and an increasing number of European Union citizens think it is getting worse.The report places the EU, often portrayed as one of the globe's cleanest regions, in an unflattering light. Among businesses, belief is widespread that the only way to succeed is through political connections.

Experiences of corruption vary across the 28-country bloc. Almost all companies in Greece, Spain and Italy believe it is widespread, according to the report, the first by the Commission. Corruption is considered rare in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

That mirrors the finding of Transparency International's corruption perception index. It named Greece as the worst performer in the EU, sharing 80th place with China. Denmark was seen as the least corrupt.

"Corruption undermines citizens' confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue," said Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Construction companies, which often tender for government contracts, are the most affected. Almost eight in ten of those asked complained about corruption.

Overall, 43pc of companies see corruption as a problem. The cost to the European economy is estimated by the Commission at €120bn annually, almost the size of the Romanian economy.

The report was published shortly after Romania's former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, was sent to jail for four years for taking bribes. He was the first premier to be put behind bars since the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989.

The EU has repeatedly raised concerns about a failure to tackle high-level graft in Romania and Bulgaria, the bloc's two poorest members. They have been blocked from joining the passport-free Schengen zone over the issue since their entry.

In October 2012, former European health commissioner John Dalli was forced to quit after an associate was accused of asking for €60m from a tobacco company in return for influencing EU tobacco law.

(Additional reporting Reuters)

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