©UrbanImages/Alamy

Fraud and corruption are undermining the impact of the European Structural and Investment Funds, with recent high-profile cases resulting in mass protests and political upheaval. So what can EU governments do to tackle the problem?

Conversations on corruption: Konilo, one of Greece’s most popular vloggers (right), interviewing young Athenians on Ermou Street. ©Rights reserved

Some young people are walking down a busy street. A man with a video camera stops them and asks some questions about what they like best about their country. They say they like the food, the beach, and a few other things. Then the man asks what they don’t like about their country. The conversation soon turns to corruption. Want to get your driving licence? “Bribing’s the only way to pass the test.” Want to get your student papers without having to wait forever? “Throw in an extra €10.”

If there is a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, it is that it was a catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have made in building robust international tax standards for the interconnected global economy of the 21st century.

The OECD’s CleanGovBiz Initiative helps governments fight corruption, while working with civil society and the private sector to promote integrity.

The economic ills of the crisis have rightly prompted public reevaluation of government spending habits and revenue collection on both sides of the Atlantic. While congressional super committees and EU delegations hash out plans to foot massive debt bills, a combination of civil society groups, the Occupy movement, and simple common sense have brought long-deserved attention to certain tax loopholes and corporate practices that cost governments billions of dollars. 

Mark Pieth ©OECD

The crisis should not divert attention from the fight against corruption.
Mark Pieth, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, talks to Lyndon Thompson about the need to keep the ball rolling.

Bribery is a modern day scourge on international trade. At a time when so many people are struggling through an economic downturn, bribery is a very real disease threatening our prosperity. It poses a serious challenge to the development of economies and contributes to market failure. It distorts competition, damages free enterprise and blights business. It stifles talent and innovation and kills entrepreneurship. In many cases it is the poorest in society who are hit the hardest

In 2007, South Africa signed up to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and joined the Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, a group made up of representatives from all 38 signatory countries which monitors the convention’s implementation and enforcement.

In the global fight against corruption, the OECD has helped forge some of the most important weapons. Now, in a new initiative, it is sitting down with its partners in the worldwide war on corruption to find ways to strengthen their collective armoury.

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To create financial reforms that work and to instil a culture of integrity in financial markets, political leaders need to demonstrate a real commitment to transparency and accountability.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.2% Q4 2019
Consumer price inflation: 1.7% March 2020
Trade (G20): -0.1% exp, -1.3% imp, Q4 2019
Unemployment: 5.6% March 2020
Sharp drop in OECD leading indicators point to darker outlook: Last update: 14 May 2020

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