European Perceptions of Corruption

Perception of corruption among European citizens

The Eurobarometer surveys conducted this year reveal a prevailing perception of corruption among European citizens. Approximately 40% feel that corruption has surged in their country over the past three years, while a significant majority (70%) believes that corruption is widespread. Despite this, more than 60% express their disapproval of corruption.

The sentiment extends to businesses, with around 65% of EU companies acknowledging the ‘fairly’ to ‘very’ widespread nature of corruption in their countries. These findings underscore the persistent challenge of corruption in the eyes of Europeans.

Scepticism towards national anti-corruption efforts

Public and corporate scepticism toward national anti-corruption efforts is on the rise. A minority expresses confidence in the effectiveness of the fight against corruption in their country. Respondents generally exhibit pessimism about national anti-corruption endeavours, with few believing that measures are applied without hidden motives (35%).

Even fewer have faith in the sufficiency of prosecutions to deter corrupt practices (32%) or the adequacy of political parties’ funding supervision (29%).

Similarly, a slim majority of companies consider it likely that corrupt individuals will face charges and court proceedings, with only 12% considering it ‘very likely’ and 41% ‘fairly likely.’ Around 50% of companies believe that businesses involved in corruption will be exposed or reported, while less than 40% anticipate heavy fines or imprisonment.

Resurgence of corruption in the business sector

The business sector perceives a resurgence of corruption following the COVID-19 pandemic years.

Over 60% of EU companies perceive corruption as ‘fairly’ to ‘very’ widespread, a 4-percentage point increase in those viewing it as ‘very widespread’ compared to 2022. Corruption is recognised as a disruptor in the internal market, causing adverse effects such as reduced growth, heightened uncertainty, increased costs and lowered investment levels.

Concerns about links between business and politics

Concerns about close links between business and politics contributing to corruption are prevalent among company managers, with 78% sharing this belief. Additionally, 72% agree that favouritism and corruption impede fair business competition.

In response to the escalating issue, the European Commission has intensified its anti-corruption efforts. New measures adopted in May 2023 criminalise corruption offences and standardise penalties across the EU. This initiative, part of the EU’s anti-corruption package, includes a joint communication and a proposal for a dedicated Common Foreign and Security Policy sanctions regime targeting serious acts of corruption globally.


Bribery poses a significant workplace challenge, with £800 billion paid annually, leading to widespread corruption. The UK Bribery Act 2010 and the National Crime Agency aim to combat illicit payments. Employers, not just individuals, can face fines and contract restrictions.

Preventing bribery involves:

  • Implementing an anti-bribery policy;
  • Fostering an ethical culture;
  • Conducting third-party due diligence;
  • Distinguishing bribes from gifts;
  • Understanding everyday bribery risks;
  • Recognising bribery signs; and
  • Providing regular anti-bribery training.

These steps create awareness, establish clear rules and promote ethical behaviour, crucial for compliance and mitigating bribery risks in the workplace.

Read more about each of these steps in our blog post “7 Ways to Prevent Bribery and Corruption in the Workplace”.

Anti-Bribery Staff Awareness E-learning Course

Initiate your training programme with GRC eLearning’s Anti-Bribery Staff Awareness E-learning Course. Created by experts, this online course illuminates the nuances of bribery and its organisational impacts.

It guides organisations in establishing a risk-based approach to counter the threat of bribery. The course further instructs on appropriate responses when offered a bribe and outlines actions to take if someone within the organisation accepts one.