Transparency International’s annual report on perceptions of corruption has highlighted Hungary’s ten-point decrease in the index over the last six years as “one of the most alarming examples of shrinking civil society space in Eastern Europe.” On a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being most corrupt and 100 being least corrupt, Hungary scores 45, putting it in second last place in the EU, with only Bulgaria ranking worse on 43.
Citing the “Stop Soros” bill which seeks to ban NGOs deemed to be propagating mass immigration into Hungary, Transparency includes Budapest on the list of former eastern bloc capitals where it sees a rise in authoritarianism “hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties.”
Transparency points to similar attacks against civil society in Poland and Romania as forming part of the same ill-liberal trend. Poland scored 60 points in the index, a two-point fall on last year and its lowest score since 2013, while Romania remained unchanged from last year’s score of 48, leaving the country with the third-worst result after Bulgaria and Hungary. Rounding off the bottom three, in joint third-last position with Romania was Greece, where an unfolding scandal involving politicians and doctors allegedly taking bribes from the Swiss drugs company Novartis has been making headlines since the story broke earlier this month.
Faring even worse in the index were the Western Balkan countries now aspiring to become EU members. Serbia (41), Kosovo (39), Albania (38), Bosnia and Herzegovina (38) and Macedonia (35) all score some of the lowest results among non-EU countries in Europe, with Ukraine (30) and Russia (29) scoring the lowest points in the region as a whole.
The best-performing countries in Central and Eastern Europe were Slovenia with 61 points and Estonia on 71 points. Despite finding itself in hot water with Brussels for its perceived crackdown on civil society and media freedom, Poland still came out with in third place in the region with 60 points, putting it ahead of Lithuania (59) Latvia (58), and the Czech Republic (57).
The index used by Transparency international ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople on a scale 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. “This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Unfortunately, compared to recent years, this poor performance is nothing new,” said the organisation.