Despite improvements, Italy is still seen as one of Europe’s most corrupt countries

Italy ranked alongside Saudi Arabia and Rwanda and below Malta when it comes to perceived corruption in an annual index by Transparency International.

Despite improvements, Italy is still seen as one of Europe's most corrupt countries
Rome city councillors hold banners reading "Honesty, Transparancy, Conspiracy of silence" as they protest alleged corruption in 2016. Photo: AFP

Italy has long been perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. But the latest edition of the annual study shows things have in fact improved once again this year.

Italy gained two points once again in Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Released on Thursday, the study ranks perceptions of official corruption levels around the world.

This year's result continues a trend of gradually improving results in the study year on year. However, analysts say they'll be watching Italy closely as they say the trend could easily go into reverse.


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 53, Italy improved by two points since 2018 – continuing gradual and sustained twelve-point increase since 2012

“We're happy to see a further improvement but we sincerely hoped for something more,” stated Virginio Carnevali, president of Transparency International Italia.

“The slowdown is due to several problems that our country has always had, without being able to solve them,” he said, citing organized crime, conflicts of interest and lobbying as examples.

The Transparency International report also warned that a lack of regulation in some areas means there’s potential for trouble “where the public sector meets private” in Italy.

According to the report, Italians believe the two most corrupt institutions in the country are political parties and parliament itself.

Map: Transparency International

Italy once 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.

Together with New Zealand, Denmark received 87 points, making the two countries the best placed on the list.

Finland is 3rd on this year’s list, with Nordic neighbours Sweden and Norway in joint 4th and 7th respectively.

The United Kingdom came 12th and the United States 23rd.

Neighbouring Spain also outdid Italy with a score of 62, as did Portugal (64), and Malta (54)

READ ALSO: Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy's anti-corruption chief

At the bottom of the European table, Hungary scored 46, Greece 45, and Bulgaria came in last with 42.

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.

The index measures perceptions of corruption in relation to bribery and the management of public funds in the public sector.

It does not relate to corruption in the private sector, including money laundering and tax fraud.

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Italy’s president calls for ‘full truth’ on anniversary of Bologna bombing

President Sergio Mattarella said on Tuesday it was the state's duty to shed more light on the 1980 bombing of Bologna's train station, on the 42nd anniversary of the attack that killed 85 people and injured 200.

Italy's president calls for 'full truth' on anniversary of Bologna bombing

On August 2nd 1980, a bomb exploded in the railway station’s waiting room, causing devastation on an unprecedented scale.

Five members of terrorist groups were later convicted in relation to the bombing, the worst episode in Italy’s ‘Years of Lead’ period of political violence in the 1970s and 80s.

Most recently, in 2020, a former member of the far-right Armed Revolutionary Nucleus (NAR) was sentenced to life imprisonment for providing logistical support to those who carried out the attack.

But suspicions remain of cover-ups and the involvement of “deviant elements” within the nation’s security services, reported Italian news agency Ansa.

READ ALSO: Bologna massacre: 40 years on, questions remain over Italy’s deadliest postwar terror attack

“The bomb that killed people who happened to be at the station on that morning 42 years ago still reverberates with violence in the depths of the country’s conscience,” Mattarella said in a speech marking the anniversary on Tuesday.

“It was the act of cowardly men of unequalled inhumanity, one of the most terrible of the history of the Italian Republic.

A train compartment at Bologna station pictured following the 1980 bombing attributed to the neo-fascist terrorist organization Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari.

“It was a terrorist attack that sought to destabilise democratic institutions and sow fear, hitting ordinary citizens going about their everyday tasks.

“On the day of the anniversary our thoughts go, above all, to the relatives forced to suffer the greatest pain.

“The neo-fascist nature of the massacre has been established in court and further steps have been made to unveil the cover-ups and those who ordered the attack in order to comply with the Republic’s duty to seek the full truth”.

The bombing remains Western Europe’s fourth deadliest postwar terror attack, and one of the most devastating in Italy’s history.