CYPRUS may have the highest percentage of companies (55 per cent) claiming that corruption had prevented them from winning a contract for a public tender, but things do not seem to be much better in the rest of the EU. A survey by the European Commission found that corruption is a problem for 43 per cent of the companies doing business in Europe. The belief that success is directly linked to political connections is widespread among businesses.
Admittedly, the stats for Cyprus are above the EU averages. Eighty-three per cent of Cypriots believe that the only way to succeed in business is through political connections, the highest percentage in the EU, which is not surprising given the total control political parties exercise over public life. Then again this is in line with the general EU view. Eight out of 10 believe that links between business and politics lead to corruption. “Europe’s problem is with the links between the political class and industry,” a representative of Transparency International was quoted as saying by Reuters.
And in a small country like Cyprus, where everyone knows each other the scope for this corruption is greater and also easier to spot, even though difficult to prove. This is not to say that we should do nothing because corruption is an EU-wide problem. In fact most of the northern European countries have many controls and laws in place to limit the scope of corruption. In Cyprus, in contrast, our political establishment has avoided implementing any measures or laws aimed at fighting corruption, which says a lot.
It suffices to say that on the recommendation of the Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) Cyprus established a Co-ordinating body against corruption with a brief to develop an anti-corruption strategy. Ten years later there is nothing resembling a strategy in place. In fact for years now the parties have been discussing a bill on divulging information on party funding but have still to finalise it because they want to keep the identity of their financial backers secret. The links between the political class and industry which lead to corruption are carefully-guarded secret.
Last week a coalition of civic organisations named Transparency Now urged the parties to make good on their promises for party funding transparency. It gathered 5,000 signatures in support of its demand, in the hope it would force the parties to act. This is a commendable initiative, because without pressure the parties will do nothing, but the campaigning must be stepped up, because we cannot rely on the goodwill of the political parties. Only citizens could make things better but they should be prepared for the long haul.