Croatia's perceived corruption index continues to slide in 2019

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Croatia's index of perceived corruption (CPI) dropped to its worst level in five years in the annual 2019 report compiled by the global corruption watchdog Transparency International, released on Thursday.

The report, published annually since 1995, uses surveys and experts’ assessments to calculate the perceived level of corruption in the public sector for 180 countries and territories around the world.

The result for each country is then converted into a single score from zero to 100, where higher is better.

According to the 2019 report, the best ranked, i.e. most transparent, countries in the world are Denmark and New Zealand, each with a CPI of 87. They are followed by Finland (86), Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland (all scoring 85), Norway (84), the Netherlands (82), Luxembourg and Germany (both scoring 80).

On the other end of the scale, Somalia ranked rock bottom with a CPI of 9, marginally worse than South Sudan (12), war-torn Syria (13) and Yemen (15), Afghanistan, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and Venezuela (all scoring 16).

Croatia placed 63rd out of 180 countries and territories the global rankings with a score of 47, which represents a slide by one point from the year before, and by three points from 2015.

This also made Croatia the 4th worst-ranked country in the European Union, with only Romania (44), Hungary (44) and Bulgaria (43) scoring worse within the 28-country bloc. Croatia’s score was also 17 CPI points below the EU’s average score of 64.

As for countries in the region, the scores paint a picture of stagnation or worsening across the board. While Slovenia (60), Montenegro (45), and Serbia (39) all remained at the same CPI score from the year before, Croatia (47) and Kosovo (36) slid by one point in the same period. Bosnia and Herzegovina (36) and North Macedonia (35) both dropped by two points from 2018.

Globally, the best ranked region in the world is Western Europe and the EU, with an average score of 66, followed by Asia Pacific (45) and Americas (43). However, overall world rankings seem to be worse than the year before, which Transparency International attributing the global slide to the increase of non-transparent campaign financing and the influence of wealthy individuals and corporations on public policies.

Croatian branch of Transparency International said in a press release that in their view the main reason for the widespread perception of corruption in the country are “irresponsible individuals” and the poorly developed “integrity of institutions” and blamed both the ruling and opposition parties for contributing to this state of affairs.

“At the moment, Croatia is holding the Presidency of the EU, and it set the fight against corruption as one of the priorities of its presidency. But at the same time, it ranks 17 points below the EU’s CPI average and lags 40 points behind Denmark, the best-ranked EU country… The drop in the ranking is a consequence of the insufficient effectiveness of the bodies tasked with preventing corruption, as well as the marathon court cases which in fact compromise the real fight against corruption,” said Davorka Budimir, head of Transparency International Croatia.

Croatia had taken over the rotating six-month Presidency of the bloc in January, for the first time since joining the EU in 2013.

Although the government led by the conservative party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its leader Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic repeatedly stated that it plans to use the term to promote is the fight against corruption, the local media regularly reports on corruption scandals involving politicians at all levels of government.

However, as many publicised high-profile cases of corruption end up in endless trials taking years, the public’s trust in the judiciary is deeply eroded, so much so that a candidate in the recent presidential election in December, film director Dario Jurican, won 4.6 percent of the vote and was ranked 5th, after a parody campaign promising “corruption for all, not just the elites.”

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