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An Analysis of Anti-Corruption Political Discourses across the European Union

Topic: Corruption in the EU University Involved: Willy Brandt School of Public Policy Students Involved: 11 Transparency International Chapter: Transparency International Secretariat Year: 2011

Scholars in the academic world report that much of the written coverage of corruption and the struggle against it have proven to be very context-sensitive  and dismissive of generic approaches to the challenge of fighting corruption in the political sphere. There has also been a lack of coverage, even for the comparatively narrow scope of the European Union, which is still struggling to coherently conceptualise corruption within different member states. In 2011 students from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy endeavored to close this gap by investigating and comparing the current anti-corruption discourses within the national political sphere, which is the central arena for handling corruption in selected EU countries. The central objective of the project was to identify convergences and divergences in anti-corruption discourse across variant important actors in the EU.


Key Findings:

  • External pressures such as accession to the EU and the financial crisis had a large impact on national discourses on corruption, which varied by region.
  • Different manifestations of anti-corruption discourses are related to the different levels of corruption within the countries. Moreover, often they are determined by other factors such as differences in the political system, the structure of government, the political culture, and unique political or economic events
  • Generally political anti-corruption discourses neglect the relevance of anti-corruption efforts beyond national borders and it is only in rare instance that political actors refer to any EU policies or legislation on their discourse.
  • The focus for national discourse on corruption is usually grand corruption in the public sector
  • Of the 11 surveyed countries, only Bulgaria and Greece employed zero-tolerance language
  • All countries agreed that transparency, monitoring and accountability are very important to fight corruption and their absence is considered as the reason for the causes of any corrupt activities. Weak enforcement of existing legislation is also considered as one of the causes of corruption.
  • The most interesting finding is that in Greece, Bulgaria and Italy the society’s culture is also considered as one of the causes.

Author :

04 Feb 2014

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