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Junts spokesperson Miriam Nogueras. Europa Press
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Spain still has a "serious problem" with corruption, according to Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released this week

Mark Nayler

Malaga

Friday, 2 February 2024, 19:37

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Corruption is still a "serious problem" in Spain, according to Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released this week. The country's position for 2023 was the same as in 2022: joint 36th out of 180, along with Latvia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean island country that was blacklisted by the EU in 2015 as a non-cooperative tax haven.

Spain also scored the same as last year, winning 60 points out of 100 (the higher the score, the less corrupt a country is). The overall standards are chasteningly low, with a global average of 43 and over two-thirds of countries scoring less than 50. Denmark topped the rankings with an innocent 90, while a cluster of African and South American countries came joint last with a grubby 40.

Spain's identical position and score reflect the fact that, politically, not much changed between 2022 and 2023: the same authoritarian, virtue-signalling government, no pledges to fight corruption from any of the main parties (doing so was fashionable back in the new dawn of 2015 and 2016, but it's slid off the agenda since) and the same high-profile corruption cases lumbering through the courts.

Transparency International identified erosion of the rule of law as a persistent problem all over Europe. But the watchdog's researchers must surely have had Catalan separatists in mind when they wrote that "in the most alarming cases, narrow interest groups [i.e. Junts?] have too much control over political decision making".

This is especially apposite in a week that saw Carles Puigdemont's party use its new-found power to pit the Spanish judiciary against the Socialist-led government. The amnesty vote on Tuesday reminded us that the supposedly robust distinction between the executive and judicial branches of the Spanish state has been completely demolished. A politicised judiciary and judicialised government have gone to war over Catalan independence - while Junts sits back and watches with relish.

The latest CPI also highlights a type of corruption that became commonplace, even welcomed, during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to its latest report, governments all over the world "undermined justice systems, restricted civic freedoms and relied on non-democratic strategies" in their attempts to prevent people becoming ill.

It would be unfair to single Spain out for criticism in this respect: to take just one other example, Boris Johnson's response to the virus was even more confused and draconian than Pedro Sánchez's. Neither politician has apologised for any of their pandemic decisions (although Johnson vaguely admitted at the UK's Covid inquiry last December that there were "things [he] could have done differently"), nor were they held to account by their respective oppositions. One hopes that lessons are being learned behind closed doors, that higher standards of scrutiny and accountability will be imposed upon governments still smashed on Covid-era power. The latest CPI suggests that they aren't.

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