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The extent of corruption in Europe is costing the EU economy at least 120 billion euros a year, according to a report carried out by the European Commission.

This is the equivalent of the EU’s total annual budget and could significantly weaken the continent’s perceived reputation for transparency.

Experiences of corruption vary across the 28 country bloc. However, according to the report, most companies in Greece, Spain and Italy believe it is widespread.

Meanwhile, corruption is considered rare in the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland and Sweden, with Denmark seen as the least corrupt.

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said the extent of corruption unearthed was “breathtaking”.

“76 percent of Europeans think that corruption is widespread in their own country,” she said. “More than half of Europeans think the level of corruption in their country has increased over the past three years. One in twelve Europeans has experienced or witnessed corruption in the last twelve months, and four out of ten European companies consider corruption to be an obstacle for doing business in the EU.”

Malmström also underlined the fact that national governments and the European Parliament had requested the report.

There is a widespread belief among businesses that the only way to succeed is through political connections.

Often in bidding wars for government contracts, construction companies are the most affected, with almost eight out of ten of those asked complaining about corruption.

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