Corruption in Greece – a crisis of values

Everyone at the moment is interested in the situation in Greece – the impact of the financial crisis, why it ever happened and the future of the country.  One way to understand it is to talk to the Greeks themselves, of course.

We visited Greece for the launch of their important study ‘National Integrity Systems’ and spoke not only to colleagues at TI-Greece who worked on the report, but also to key stakeholders. Their varied perspectives were invaluable and they all emphasised the importance of one of the key conclusions of the report, that is that corruption in Greece originates mainly from a crisis of values, which is linked with both the Greek mentality and the key institutions of the country.  This gave me a lot to think about.

This finding seems to be confirmed by public opinion polls and surveys. People recognize that there are several economic and political reasons for the crisis and they are seeking answers from their politicians. They are angry with the political establishment and disaffected by their political institutions, and unfortunately are also blaming foreigners, especially Germans.

Clearly Greece is in the middle of a very difficult transition: currently, there is an appointed interim government and the election is due to be held in a month, though still to be confirmed. This exacerbates lack of trust by the public in the present government and it was quite clear to me that people do not feel that they are represented because they did not appoint the present government.

The NIS report received a lot of attention, too, because one of its key conclusions is that there is a link between the financial crisis and corruption in the country. Some think that  corruption cannot be a priority in the context of dire economic crisis as there are other more pressing issues. The NIS study, however, suggests a link and makes recommendations as to how fighting corruption can have a very positive impact on finding solutions to the financial crisis itself. This was picked up by the Greek media and the international media and the report was given widespread coverage.

€1406 – the average price of a bribe in Greece

The engagement of people in Greece in these issues is fundamental – not only to help resolve the financial crisis but also in the fight against corruption.  Engaging the public is one of the priorities of TI-Greece and they are working on this now, sharing information, and organizing workshops and seminars in cities and towns around the country in order to present the findings of the NIS Report and engender greater discussion and debate.

Greece is facing multiple challenges and the fight of corruption is one of them. The question is whether the citizens of Greece and the political establishment alike understand that important link between the political and economic crises and corruption.

When you go to Greece, it is very striking how deep the crisis is. The public anger is noticeable. On the anti corruption side there is a paradox: on the one hand top public officials say it is not a top priority for the interim government because of other more pressing priorities. On the other hand, there was huge interest in the NIS launch – it received widespread coverage in the Greek media and around the world – and people clearly see a nexus between corruption, the political and economic crisis and financial integrity.  

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Valentina Rigamonti

About Valentina Rigamonti

Valentina Rigamonti is Senior Regional Coordinator of Western Europe for Transparency International's Europe and Central Asia Department.

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7 Responses to Corruption in Greece – a crisis of values

  1. Elli Siapkidou 3 April 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    This is fairly accurate description of what is happening in Greece at the moment, but let me add a few things. 1. Corruption may be a two-way process, but it starts at the top. It is the politician’s responsibility NOT to allow himself to be bribed. In Greece, the political establishment IS the corruption. They are the ones that handled huge amounts of EU structural and regional funds since the 1980s and during the 1990s and channelled them through their voters rather than for development and public investments. 2. Fighting corruption is not a priority of the current political establishment BECAUSE THEY ARE PART OF IT. There is absolutely no paradox. If there is a serious investigation of where public money is, it will be discovered in international and off-shore accounts owned by politicians’ -currently or previously in parliament. 3. One may organize thousand of workshops to inform the public; But unless there is a “cleansing” of the Greek political establishment, whereby politicians that used their power to steel public money or grant public sector jobs are punished, corruption will not be fought in Greece. We call this “catharsis” in Greek.
    A small example: According to the research presented here and the diagram, the Ombudsman is not very corrupt and scores quite high. The guy in charge (Kaminis) run for mayor in the municipal elections in 2010. What does that tell you?
    P.S. I would appreciate your comment.

  2. Julien 20 July 2012 at 8:57 am #

    The report mentions illegal houses and attempts by the state to legalize these; they can be legalised for thirty years but at a cost that is simply unaffordable for many.
    The millions of illegal houses in Greece are testament to the unresponsive state apparatus…
    This phenomenon of illegal houses cannot simply be put down to a corrupt mentality but often arises out of a desperate need for people to house themselves. These homes are mostly built on land legally acquired or inherited by the homeowner. They would have been given planning permission in any normally functioning system. But the Greek state is far from normal and rather than serving the citizen its serves the interests and power of bureaucratic class which thrives in a system of laws that are outdated, overlapping, confused and contradictory.

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