As has been the case historically, Western Europe and the European Union once again topped the 2022 CPI with an average score of 66 out of 100. Despite that, progress has stagnated and many countries are actually showing worrying signs of decline.
A number of scandals emerged in 2022, highlighting how powerful industries and foreign actorshave managed to unduly influence decision making across Europe. These include the Uber Files scandal in France, a German state government’s ties to Gazprom and allegations that members of the European Parliament took bribes from Qatari and Moroccan officials. All have served to demonstrate how external influence and threats to the rule of law have flourished in the face of accountability and transparency measures that have been neglected and rolled back in recent years.
“Just as Europe faces myriad challenges – from the war in Ukraine and subsequent energy and food shortages to looming recession – the region is failing to fight corruption. This year we’ve seen how powerful industries and foreign leaders can influence policy at the expense of the public interest from France to Germany and the EU itself. In order for leaders to effectively tackle the crises facing the continent, they must prioritise sustained, comprehensive action to combat corruption and ensure integrity in politics”, according to Flora Cresswell, Transparency International’s Western Europe Regional Coordinator.
Since 2017, 96% of countries in the European region have either declined or made no significant progress in fighting corruption. Since then, Luxembourg (77), the United Kingdom (73) and Austria (71) have all experienced a significant decline in their scores while Ireland (77) was the only country seeing a major improvement.
The United Kingdom in particular has dropped five points to its lowest ever score as a result of a number of scandals from public spending to lobbying along with revelations of ministerial misconduct. Hungary (42) was Europe’s worst-ranked country and it was followed by Bulgaria (43) despite Sofia recently adopting a whistleblower protection law.
There are even concerns about some of the CPI’s very top performers. Countries towards the top of the index have stagnated as a result of a failure to address shortcomings in political integrity frameworks. Notably, no Nordic countries have seen significant improvement since 2017 while reliable performers such as Switzerland (82) and the Netherlands (80) are beginning to show signs of decline due to concerns over lobbying regulations and weaknesses in integrity.