EUROBAROMETER POLL ON FRAUD AND FIGHT AGAINST FRAUD

Press Release OLAF/01/2004-IP/04/41, 14 January 2004

This survey analyses public awareness of fraud in general and fraud against the EU and its budget in the 15 Member States (EU-15) and 13 accession and candidate countries (CC-13). The results show that respondents are particularly concerned about corruption (55% in the EU-15 and 69% in the CC-13), fraud relating to quality of food and agricultural products (46% in the EU-15 and 57% in the CC-13) and commercial fraud (39% in the EU-15 and 58% in the CC-13). Citizens are more preoccupied by wrongdoing in national/local governments and institutions (36% in the EU-15), than about wrongdoing in EU institutions. As concerns fraud against the EU, more than half the respondents disagree with the statement that fraud against the EU and its budget happens very rarely. There is a very wide consensus that defrauding the EU and its budget is harmful both for the vast majority of citizens who are honest and for the national economy. EU citizens trust the police force to fight against fraud, while citizens from accession and candidate countries look more to the EU itself. Both groups agree that fighting fraud should be a political priority and the EU has a role to play. However, a majority of citizens feels fairly badly informed about the fight against fraud against the EU and its budget.

"These results highlight the European citizen's wish for more coordination in the fight against fraud at European level and more cooperation between all parties involved. It shows that we are right to emphasize the fight against fraud at EU level, to boost coordination with Member States and European partners, and to raise awareness on joint efforts. For this purpose OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, is our most important tool. Citizens need to be better informed about actions taken to tackle EU fraud and the successes in the fight against such fraud," said Michaele Schreyer, Commissioner for budget and the fight against fraud.

European citizens are concerned about fraud

Respondents in the EU are especially concerned about corruption (55%), fraud relating to quality of food and agricultural products (46%) commercial fraud (39%), circulation of fake euro banknotes and coins (32%) and money laundering and tax fraud (30%). They are more preoccupied by wrongdoing in national/local governments and institutions (36%), than about wrongdoings in EU institutions (23%). Defrauding the EU and its budget was only mentioned by 19% of the respondents.

Citizens of the accession and candidate countries are more worried than those of the EU about all the crimes listed in the survey (corruption, 69%; commercial fraud, 58%; fraud on quality of food and agricultural products, 57%; money laundering, 54%; circulation of fake banknotes and coins in euros, 40%; wrongdoing in national/local governments and institutions, 47%, wrongdoings in EU institutions, 31%). Even concern about the circulation of fake euro bank notes and coins is more significant outside the EU than within.

27% of the respondents in the EU and 22% in the accession and candidate countries tend to think that fraud against the Union is usually more widespread in the other countries than in their own country. However, opinions on this issue vary greatly from country to country.

Fraud against the EU budget

59% of EU citizens disagree with the statement that fraud against the EU and its budget happens very rarely.

80% of the respondents believe that defrauding the EU and its budget is harmful for people who are honest (69% in the CC-13) and 79% of the respondents believe that this type of fraud is harmful for the national economy (66% in the CC-13).

Fight against fraud

Most EU respondents (18%) trust the police force most to fight effectively against fraud against the EU and its budget. The legal system (14%) and customs services (10%) come in second and third place. Interestingly, 10% of EU respondents, 14% of CC-13 trust nobody to fight against this fraud. In the accession and candidate countries, 16% mention the EU, 15% the national government, 11% the police forces, 9% the courts and legal system and 7% the media as effective means to fight against fraud.

In the current Member states, 24% of the respondents acknowledge the fact that their national government is fighting effectively against fraud against the EU and its budget, while 21% of the respondents agree with the statement that the EU institutions are effectively fighting this type of fraud.

70% of the respondents agree that the EU should co-ordinate national investigations of fraud against the EU and its budget and say that there should be more co-operation between the institutions and bodies involved. Three quarters of respondents agree that this should be a priority everywhere in the EU.

Information on fraud

Both EU and accession and candidate country citizens are more aware of fraud (fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, counterfeiting of goods) that happens in their country than anywhere else.

56% of the EU citizens report that the media inform them fairly bad about the fight in their country against fraud against the EU. 58% feel badly informed about the fight in other EU countries, 57% of the respondents are badly informed about the fight waged by the EU against this type of fraud.

3 out of 4 respondents agree with the statement that the EU should give more information about anti-fraud campaigns and success stories (62% in the CC-13). The Commission and OLAF are currently considering a specific information campaign on the role of the EU in the fight against fraud. This campaign has also been requested by the anti-fraud communicators network run by OLAF, which brings together communication specialists from national authorities involved in the fight against fraud.

Methodology

This Eurobarometer survey was carried out face-to-face in people's home between 1st October 2003 and 9th November 2003, It covers citizens aged 15 years and older, who reside in the 15 member countries, the 10 accession countries and the 3 candidate countries. The sample size in acceding and Candidate Countries Eurobarometer surveys is at least 1000 people per country, except for Cyprus and Malta, in which the sample size is 500 respondents each. In the 15 Member States, 1000 persons are interviews except for Germany (2000), UK (1300) and Luxembourg (600).

Elisabeth Werner: +32 (0)2 295.95.06

Alessandro Butticé
Spokesman of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF)
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.5425
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.8101

Focus on the special reports on Attitudes related to defrauding the European Union and

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