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‘Corruption lessons from a broad range of experts’

Patrick L Young is expert in global financial markets working in multiple disciplines, ranging from trading independently to running exchanges.

Published time: February 05, 2014 09:35
EU commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem (AFP Photo / Georges Gobet)

Demonstrating hypocrisy characteristic of a declining empire, the EU is railing against corruption while its own accounts are approaching 20 consecutive years of failing their audit...

EU agitprop remains a masterclass in generating self-righteous panic about some great evil to which the European Union promptly asserts itself as the only feasible means of salvation. Think of the syndrome as being a multinational bug in search of one enormous windshield. The practice is always similar: a report produced, a Commissioner wheeled out from the Berlaymont Building and the media duly regaled as it becomes clear Brussels simply will not tolerate under any circumstances, the terrible foibles of...well, whatever is regarded as the attention-grabbing crise du jour.

The latest problem the EU is ‘determined’ to resolve is corruption. This vile pandemic threatening the heart of European civilization was described by EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem as “breathtaking.” Or 120 billion euros a year for those who prefer their hyperbole served up as a round number.

Intriguingly, this corruption figure is just a few billion short of the budget provided to the European Union itself. Indeed the cynical might see some relationship between the two. After all, Commissioner Malmstroem rails against corruption in EU member states while omitting to address the significant problem in her own Brussels backyard: Due to liberal dollops of corruption married to sheer incompetence masquerading as a budgetary process, the Court of Auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts ever since the process began in 1994. With customary high regard for the rules, the EU habitually ignores this process and endeavors to bully the auditors as being anti-European. If the EU can ignore its auditors, why should mere nation states bother being less corrupt?

Thus we arrive at an intriguing impasse. The EU promotes massive patronage which squeezes out honest entrepreneurs foolish enough to merely build businesses instead of applying for the EU’s fabled grants regime. Thus Brussels sits at the epicenter of the nexus of a bizarre unelected system de facto devoted to power, corruption and lies. On one hand, the politicians berate bankers and abhor corruption while on the other they sit in the heart of a 120 billion plus island of incompetence and corruption, which demonstrates the folly of multinational central planning. Or to put it in the prosaic language of one of the EU’s various (unelected) presidents, Herman Van Rompuy: “In times of crisis, it is more vital than ever to foster confidence. We should also be teaching, to convince Europeans and demonstrate clearly that Europe is not the source of problems, but the solution.”

Presumably the Eurozone’s unemployed 12 percent rejoice daily at President Van Rompuy’s Europe of solutions.

A long exposure photo shows people waiting outside a government employment office in Burgos on February 4, 2013. (AFP Photo / Cesar Manso)

Ultimately northern European nations, such as those paragons of Scandinavian virtue, have singularly failed to grasp the nettle to reduce EU corruption, leaving Europe becalmed as the sick bloc of the world economy. Realistically no nation-sized entity can ever rid itself entirely of crime or corruption, but under control they ought to barely touch the general population. Widespread corruption kills trust. Without trust there can be no functioning economy. Travel to the eastern fringes of the EU and you find that doing business becomes a challenge. In a heroic move to demonstrate a reformist agenda, Romanian MPs blazed a trail passing a bill last year decriminalizing corruption charges for politicians and lawyers, while criminalizing defamation and libel. Given this change, clearly we must applaud such heroic political leadership making the Romanian economy more open, fair and less corrupt!

Then again, longstanding Mediterranean EU members are often seething masses of patronage and privilege. Napoleon’s meritocratic ideals are lost on the current political classes who hold their rights above those of advancing (or even defending) citizens’ prosperity.

The EU has a significant corruption problem exacerbated by Brussels’ inability to recognize its own flaws. A lightly-taxed over class wields significant powers to spend, with little responsibility attached to whether the project goes right, wrong, or the cash simply drops into somebody’s trouser pocket without delivering anything. While the world’s emerging economies are developing entrepreneurship and kindling growth, the EU has created a nebulous supplicant consultant class, providing expensive intermediation of somebody else’s money via expensive EU processes resulting at best, in another nebulous white elephant.

Ultimately eroding corruption is all about zero tolerance. The EU’s pointed inability to address its own core failings, while attacking corruption elsewhere, is a whitewash that won’t deliver honesty, trust, commerce or indeed growth.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.