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The Brief: corruption still a major issue in European Union

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By Isabel Silva, Jack Parrock
 Protest Malta
Protest Malta   -   Copyright  Image Rene Rossignaud/AP   -   RENE ROSSIGNAUD

Hungary, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Greece are the five EU countries that do not reach the 50 per cent threshold in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index.

The report released by the NGO Transparency International analysed 180 countries, and when it comes to the EU, the misuse of its funds is still a big issue.

The perceptions index was based in answers from 12 independent institutions specialised in governance and business climate.

Europeans taking to the streets to protest corruption in Romania and the Czech Republic.

And a report from Transparency International confirms that most post-communist EU member-states are not addressing the problem effectively.

"There is a lot of fraud committed with EU funds; involving EU funds, but it has been very difficult to tackle this effectively and one of the reasons is that all member states take a different approach. By having a single European Public Prosecutor that will be addressing and tackling these issues, I think we can be confident that it will be easier to take on these cases," Michiel van Hulten, Director of Transparency International EU told our reporter.

Also western powerhouses France and the UK are among the four countries that lost at least three points on the index since last year.

There is some good news though - Spain improved by four points and Greece by three on the index, although Greece is still in the bottom half of the global ratings.

Transparency International focused this year's report on the risks of private entities financing political parties.

It lists Malta as a country to watch closely since it dropped six points since 2015, not to mention the murder of the anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia remaining unsolved.

One MEP from the European Parliament's Budget Control committee says the EU should intervene.

"If we have lobbies financing some political parties, the people elected will afterwards feel that they owe them something in return; and it is the beggining of corruption. So clearer rules about the financing of political parties," says Michèle Rivasi of the French Green party.

The EU is trying to support whistle-blowers and to help fight corruption by adopting a directive that gives them more protection. But the move may still struggle to be effective.

"Whistle-blowers do play a key role and they do deserve protection. But there again, we know what the regulation should be. But there is the matter of translating that regulation into action, into practice in our member states. That passage from the theory to the practice is something that we are looking for," explains Gianluca Esposito, Executive Secretary of "Group of States against Corruption" (Council of Europe).

And it could be two years before the directive is effective.