News / Europe

Europeans Lose Trust in Governments

Civil servants continues a second day of work stoppages and held a protest rally in central Athens, Greece, Aug. 2, 2013.
Civil servants continues a second day of work stoppages and held a protest rally in central Athens, Greece, Aug. 2, 2013.
Selah Hennessy
Years into an economic crisis that has rocked the eurozone, European citizens are losing trust in their governments. A recent survey found that trust in political parties is at an all-time low with up to 90 percent in some countries saying politicians are affected by corruption. The survey comes as a number of top political figures in Italy, Spain, and France face allegations of fraud and tax evasion.

Across Europe, citizens are losing trust in their governments.

A recent study carried out by the corruption watchdog Transparency International surveyed people in 107 countries. Only 23 percent said their governments are making effective efforts to beat corruption.

In Europe, the figures were much lower. In Spain, eight percent felt like corruption was being addressed; in Italy, 13 percent; in Greece and Portugal, just one percent.

Valentina Rigamonti of Transparency International  said the crisis of confidence was deepest in the countries hardest hit by the economic crisis -- arguably the ones most in need of citizens’ trust.

“The global corruption barometer has showed that corruption is very strong in Southern Europe, the countries that are hit by the financial crisis,” said Rigamonti.

Trust in political parties themselves has also gone down. In Greece, one of the eurozone’s major economic worries, 9 in 10 people surveyed said they think political parties are affected by corruption.

Rigamonti said that while the deteriorating trust was most noticeable in economic crisis zones, corruption was a problem in every European country, even Nordic nations, which typically have a good reputation for transparency.

“No one of the countries in Europe is clean. All of them are involved in corruption, at different levels with different problems,” said Rigamonti.

Transparency International’s research comes as politicians across Europe are being hit with accusations of corruption.

On Thursday, a prison sentence was upheld for Italy’s former prime minister and current senator, Silvio Berlusconi, for tax fraud.

A day earlier, Spain’s prime minister was forced to defend himself before parliament over corruption allegations, after he was accused of receiving under-the-table cash payments from construction magnates - an accusation he denies.

Last month, the prime minister of the Czech Republic resigned following a corruption scandal involving one of his aides, as did the entire government of Luxembourg - again because of corruption allegations.

William Bartlett is a Europe analyst at the London School of Economics.

He said the economic recession in Europe has not necessarily made corruption worse. Government corruption, he said, has been a problem across Europe for decades.

But he said that when money was tight, the problem became more apparent.

“I think in recession, in a way, strangely enough, although there are less opportunities for corruption because the pie is shrinking and there is less to go around, nevertheless at that time people are much more sensitive to it, so it's much more likely to come to public attention,” said Bartlett.

He said the loss of citizens' trust in their governments was a major problem for European countries as they tried to implement austerity measures.

Bulgaria has recently seen weeks of public protest over alleged government corruption.  In Spain, the allegations over the prime minister’s links to corruption also brought people onto the streets in protest.

“Countries such as Greece, France, Italy, where unemployment is increasing, living standards are falling - whenever these issues crop up, people think, why should we be taking the costs of all of these policies when politicians are not taking part, too?,” said Bartlett.

According to the Transparency International survey, citizens of 51 nations see political parties as their countries' most corrupt institution. And more than half of those surveyed said they feel government is run by special interests.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs