Unsurprisingly, Central and Eastern European (CEE) states are viewed as the most corrupt in the EU in a recent poll by Ernst & Young. Slovenia ranked the most corrupt country in Europe, followed by Croatia - which will formally join the bloc in July. Slovakia came in third, level with Greece - the epicentre of the Eurozone debt crisis.
With the authors of the survey noting that the effects of the crisis are clearly compromising standards, they warn that corruption is on the rise again according to respondents, who were asked about practices in their own countries and companies. "Bribery and corruption are widespread, with 39% of respondents in our survey reporting that bribery or corrupt practices occur frequently in their countries," the report states. "The situation is significantly worse in rapid-growth markets."
While the poll concentrates on companies, practices in the commercial world appear to follow the perception of the wider state of corruption in a country. Hence, while a stunning 84% of Slovak respondents regard corruption as widespread in their country, next-door in Poland the figure drops to 59% - close to the European average of 57%. A tiny 4% of Slovenians do not think corrupt practices are rife.
Meanwhile, others in the region do a bit better than might be expected. Corruption is considered widespread by 73% of Czech respondents, while 70% of Hungarians see the problem as common. "Respondents to our survey were increasingly willing to make cash payments to win or retain business, and a greater proportion - including CFOs expressed an increased willingness to misstate financial performance," the survey reports. Ernst & Young conducted the survey among 3,500 respondents in 36 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.
"In the current hard economic conditions, companies are under permanent pressure which forces them to increase profit literally at any costs," Magdalena Soucek of Ernst & Young said, commenting on the survey's results for Czech newswire CTK.
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