Italy has long been perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. But according to an annual study by anti-corruption campaign group Transparency International, things are improving slightly.
Italy gained two points again this year in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Released today, the study ranks perceptions of official corruption levels around the world.
But analysts say they'll be watching Italy closely in the coming year, as that progress could be quickly undone amid “a weakening of democratic institutions and decline in political culture” in the country.
The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived (not actual) levels of public sector corruption, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
As such, the list does not make any claims as to the actual level of corruption in a given country, but rather how much corruption people believe there is.
With a score of 52, Italy improved by two points since 2017, part of a gradual and sustained ten-point increase since 2012.
The passing of Italy’s first comprehensive anti-corruption law in 2011 is thought to be behind the improvements.
“The index of perception of corruption tells us that, slowly and with difficulty, the reputation of our country is improving,” Virginio Carnevali, President of Transparency International Italy, told local media today. “We’re on the right path but we can’t allow ourselves to be content.”
“Italy has an important anti-corruption package, but there is still no regulation on lobbying and conflicts of interest,” he added.
In the report, Transparency International warned that this lack of regulation means there’s potential for trouble “where the public sector meets private.”
According to the report, Italians believe the two most corrupt institutions in the country are political parties and parliament itself.
This hasn’t changed since the previous report was issued last year, despite the country since electing a government of populists who came to power on promises to rid Italian politics of a corrupt, long-ruling “establishment.”
Italy is one of Transparency International’s “countries to watch” this year as it says the situation looks set to change.
“On the ground, a weakening of democratic institutions and decline in political culture may undermine future anti-corruption efforts in Italy,” it stated in the report.
Italy again comes in far behind its northern European neighbours in the corruption stakes.
Scandinavia dominated the top spots, with Denmark once again considered the world’s least corrupt country, with a score of 88. Sweden was third, with a score of 85.
The UK and Germany shared 11th place with a score of 80.
Neighbouring Spain also outdid Italy with a score of 58, as did Portugal (64), as well as Poland (60) and the Czech Republic (59).
At the bottom of the European table, Hungary scored 46, Greece 45, and Bulgaria came in last with 42.
On the global level, Italy was ranked alongside Oman and Grenada, which also scored 52.
More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 on this year’s index, with an average score of just 43, Transparency International wrote.
This is due to the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption, contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world, the organisation adds.