The Malta Independent 5 December 2021, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Corruption - Are we the only ones?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017, 15:18 Last update: about 5 years ago

From Paris to Bucharest, from Madrid to Moscow, an often well-founded perception of corruption in high places is leading European citizens to shake up the political life of their country.

Since early June, corruption-related controversies have brought down the mayor of Brussels, forced out Romania’s prime minister and sparked off the resignation of four newly-appointed French government ministers scarcely a month after their appointment.

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Across Europe, especially central and eastern Europe, anger at corruption has given rise this year to some of the region’s largest street protests since the collapse of communism in 1989-91.

In Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and other countries , anti-corruption activists say that the younger generation is not satisfied with living standards that are indeed superior to those under communism but not up to the higher ethical standards nowadays expected in public life.

The consequences are striking in Romania. After hundreds of thousands of people staged anti-corruption demonstrations in February, the government withdrew a decree that would have pardoned some jailed officials and saved many more from the risk of prosecution.

Romania’s struggle goes on. Some days ago Liviu Dragnea, leader of the ruling Social Democrats, brought about the removal of Sorin Grindeanu, his hand-picked prime minister in the midst of an angry discussion inside the party over how energetically to tackle corruption.

Deep frustration with corruption is also present outside the EU. In the Ukraine, the 2014 revolution was inspired to a considerable extent by public anger at the flagrant corruption practiced by former president Viktor Yanukovich and those around him.

This anger is also present in Russia – thousands attended anti-corruption protests in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities on 12 June despite intimidation. Since Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner released a film in March about the alleged extravagant lifestyle of Dimitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister , some 22 million people have watched it on YouTube.

The more intense focus on corruption in European political life does not necessarily mean that corruption is more widespread in these countries but rather means that European citizens today have a lower tolerance threshold for politicians’ shady behavior after so many scandals involving political parties, banks, business and state administrators came to life during the post-2008 financial crisis.

Moreover, some national judiciaries are making more strenuous efforts to weed out corruption. Spain’s High Court has called on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to testify in one of the nation’s biggest corruption trials since the return of democracy in the 1970s.

When we consider all the above, it remains a huge mystery why after such an election campaign based on corruption allegations, the party under attack with regards to corruption went on to get an even bigger electoral victory than in 2013. Are we the only people in Europe to have a thick skin where allegations of corruption are involved?

 

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