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LATEST EUROBAROMETER SURVEY SHOWS THAT PEOPLE IN LATVIA ARE STILL TOLERANT OF CORRUPTION

The latest Eurobarometer survey on corruption in EU Member States, published by the European Commission, is a stark reminder of how relevant the problem still is in Latvia. It also shows that the government needs to do more in prosecuting high-level corruption cases and reduce the tolerance of corruption to obtain public services.

More than eight Latvian respondents in ten (84%) believe that corruption is widespread in the country. The figure, which is higher than the EU average (71%), has not changed since the last survey was carried out in 2017. While the proportion of respondents who think this way is even higher in Lithuania (92%), it is also in stark contrast with neighbouring Estonia, where it has decreased by 7%, from 67% to 60%, in the past three years. This indicates that there has been no breakthrough in tackling the problem in recent years.

 

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The survey results also send negative signals with regard to perceived corruption at the intersection between public and private interests. While over three-quarter of respondents (76%) agree that too close links between business and politics lead to corruption in Latvia over a half of them (51%) believe that the only way to succeed in business is to have political connections. Furthermore, 71% of respondents agree that favouritism and corruption hamper business competition in Latvia, and this might have negative consequences for the business environment in the country.

The Eurobarometer also reveals that Latvia might have a problem with “administrative” corruption. In fact, the survey shows that in Latvia, the practices of giving money, gifts and/or doing favours to get public services practices are generally considered more acceptable compared to the EU average. More than a half of respondents (57%) think it is acceptable compared to the EU average of 23%. This is the highest proportion in the EU – followed by Hungary (56%) and Czech Republic (50%) – and in contrast with Lithuania (37%) and Estonia (26%).

One in ten of Latvian respondents (10%) claim that, in the last 12 months, they gave an extra payment or valuable gift to a nurse or a doctor or make a donation to the hospital in exchange for care services. The proportion is the double compared to the EU average (5%) and has slightly increased since 2017, when it was 8%. Describing what had happened, the overwhelming majority of respondents felt that they had to give a payment or gift. 34% did so before care – a 14% increase since 2017 – and 44% did so after care.

These figures give an impression of the potential corruption risks in the healthcare sector and are even more relevant in the face of the current crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, even though so far, the Latvia has seen a relatively small amount of infections requiring intensive care compared to the rest of Europe, potential future strains on the healthcare system might increase corrupt practices to access preferential treatment.

Personal experience with corruption in Latvia is the same as the EU average: 5% have been the victims of it or witnesses to it.  However, only 3% have reported incidents of corruption.  This is significantly lower that the EU average of 21% who report incidents of corruption.

Questions on reporting corruption and government’s effectiveness in tackling the problem reveal a widespread perception of impunity among survey respondents. A significant proportion (43%) believe that reporting corruption would be pointless because those responsible would not be punished. This figure is higher than the EU average (30%). Furthermore, only 15% of Latvian respondents agree that government efforts to combat corruption are effective, compared to the EU average of 32%. 71% of respondents also think that high-level corruption cases are not pursued sufficiently.

The results of the Eurobarometer survey in Latvia are hardly surprising when it comes to perceptions of corruption, and broadly reflect those of the Corruption Perception Index 2019, released early this year. The high level of tolerance against corruption and the low motivation to report instances of corruption is affected by a lack of results in government efforts to punish corrupt officials and bribers. However, in order to successfully combat corruption, the giving of a thank you gratuity, and to increase society’s trust in honest processes in government administration and politics, it is important not only to fight corruption but to invest in prevention and the education of society.  As anti-corruption policies are being developed, Delna recommends that agencies give priority to improving internal control systems as well as the strengthening of transparency and ethical standards in public sector and politics.

 

Background information

The Special Eurobarometer survey on corruption, first carried out in 2005, and repeated in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2017, is designed to explore the level of corruption perceived and experienced by European citizens. The survey covers a range of areas, including:

  • General perceptions of corruption (acceptability, extent in each country and society, changes in recent years)
  • Detailed attitudes to corruption in public institutions and business, and the effectiveness of government, the judicial system and institutions in tackling corruption;
  • Personal experience of bribery and incidence of corruption in contact with institutions;
  • Corruption in the healthcare sector, through additional payments;
  • Whether corruption was reported or not and for which reasons, as well as the awareness of where to report corruption and the level of trust in various authorities to deal with it

 

The survey was carried out by the Kantar network in 28 EU Member States between 6 and 19 December 2019 (the UK was still a member at that time).

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