“Corruption across EU ‘breathtaking’ – EU Commission” says a headline in the BBC. The Commissioner responsible for the report said that she believed the cost of corruption was “probably much higher” than the €120 billion (US$162 billion) the report estimates. And indeed that is probably correct because corruption within EU organs themselves was not included. Given that the auditors have persistently found money missing in the EU accounts (or, as it is quaintly put in Eurospeak: “error rates”) for nearly two decades, 4.8% of €138.6 billion (€6.6 billion or US$8.9 billion) in 2012, there may well be more. Almost half the businesses operating in Europe say they find corruption to be a problem, More than half the people surveyed think the problem is getting worse. 8% claim to have personally experienced something in the past 12 months.
Now, these are precisely the politicians, followed enthusiastically by a barking pack of reporters, opinioneers and editorial writers, who are always ready to lecture Russia and posture as an paradigm to be emulated. Indeed Ukraine is being torn apart precisely by the pretension that the EU is the only route for it to get out of stagnation and corruption. I do not believe that tu quoque is a particularly effective way of arguing but there are times when outright hypocrisy must be acknowledged. Eurosceptics like myself have always expected that huge uncontrolled bureaucracies producing ever more layers of regulations is a strong precondition for corruption – how else can a company or individual navigate through contradictory and incomprehensible regulations than by the lubrication of a shot of cash in the right place? It is to the credit of the EU that it produced such a harsh report.
And it’s not just hypocrisy that Ukrainians should think about. What if the EU structure is in fact the principle cause of stagnation and corruption just as communism was? There are important similarities after all: faceless, well-paid bureaucrats at the centre conducting experiments on a powerless population.
Who are the faceless gnomes of Brussels to lecture Moscow or Kiev or anyone else?
Who can take anything they say seriously any more?