A third of people living in Europe and Central Asia view corruption as one of the most pressing problems their country faces, according to a poll conducted by Transparency International.
The NGO, which campaigns against corruption worldwide, interviewed 60,000 people in more than 40 countries for the survey, which found the number of respondents concerned about bribes and backhanders rose to two out of every three in Kosovo, Moldova and Spain.
The Global Corruption Barometer 2016 – which is based on the opinions of people in countries including the UK, Kazakhstan and Russia – found that half of those questioned had little confidence that their government is doing enough to fight corruption in the public sector.
Moldovans are the most worried about corruption, according to the poll, which found that 67% of them said it was one of the major issues facing their society. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Ukraine, more than 50% of respondents said they were concerned about the issue, while more than a third of the populations in Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Macedonia expressed similar views.
Within the EU, the Spanish are most concerned about corruption, with 66% of people questioned in Spain saying they are worried about the problem. At the other end of the scale, just 2% of German respondents said corruption was a major issue.
As well as gauging attitudes towards corruption, the survey found that one in every six households in all countries surveyed had paid a bribe to access public services. In countries in the former Soviet Union, 30% of respondents said they had been forced to offer backhanders to public officials.
“Corruption is a significant problem all across the Europe and Central Asia region. In EU countries many citizens see how the wealthy and those in government distort the system to their advantage,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
“Governments are simply not doing enough to tackle corruption because individuals at the top are benefiting. To end this deeply troubling relationship between wealth, power and corruption, governments must require higher levels of transparency, including around who owns and controls companies through public beneficial ownership registries.”
The organisation warned that the perceived threat of corruption could be one of the reasons European voters are turning in increasing numbers to populist political movements, suggesting they believe traditional democratic institutions are “failing to deliver on promises of prosperity and equal opportunity”.
Transparency International said a key stumbling block in the fight against corruption is a lack of protection for whistle-blowers who call it out. Thirty percent of all respondents to the poll said the main reason more people do not report corruption is because they are concerned about the consequences of doing so.