Cecilia Malmström, the EU's commissioner for home affairs, unveiled a set of measures to address more vigorously the serious harm that corruption brings to European societies – economically, socially and politically.
"While there are quite sophisticated legal frameworks at international and European level, we have seen that implementation among EU member states is very uneven. It is clear to me that there is not enough determination amongst politicians and decision-makers to fight this crime," Malmström said.
The commissioner announced the establishment of an EU anti-corruption reporting mechanism, capable of identifying "failures and vulnerabilities across the 27 EU member states".
"This EU Anti-Corruption Report will identify trends and weaknesses that need to be addressed […] It will be issued by the Commission every two years, starting in 2013, and be based on inputs from a variety of sources, including the existing monitoring mechanisms (by the Council of Europe, the OECD and the United Nations)," she said.
But while the 2013 objective may appear distant, the political mood may produce results sooner. Pressure is already growing for Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the EU's border-free Schengen area to be delayed, until the countries have brought to an end their perceived model of a criminal transition to a market economy.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined on 1 January 2007, shortcomings remained regarding judicial reform and the fight against corruption – and in the case of Bulgaria, the fight against organised crime. These shortcomings carried the risk that Bulgaria and Romania would not be able to correctly apply Community law and Bulgarians would not be able to fully enjoy their rights as EU citizens.
The EU established a monitoring mechanism to accompany the initial period of Bulgaria and Romania's accession, a first in the bloc's history. However, four-and-a-half years later, little improvement has been made and a decision to keep the monitoring mechanism in place for another year was adopted.
Last December, France and Germany were the first to ask for Bulgaria and Romania's Schengen accession to be linked to their ability to get rid of the monitoring mechanism. Technically, both Romania and Bulgaria have satisfied the criteria for Schengen accession.
Romania in particular reacted angrily, claiming that older EU members were being unfair. Legally speaking, the two issues are indeed unrelated.
The EU's justice and home affairs ministers are meeting on 9 and 10 June in Luxembourg to discuss the Schengen bids of Romania and Bulgaria. Reportedly, Paris and Berlin now have the support of several other older EU members, including Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark, for postponing their accession.
Unnamed diplomats were quoted by the international press as saying that it would be "a matter of years rather than months" before Romania and Bulgaria could join Schengen.
A diplomat told EurActiv that the biggest concern was that information in the confidential databases of Schengen could become available to the Bulgarian mafia.
A recent wiretap scandal illustrates the fact that Bulgaria has proven unable to secure confidential information. In addition, recently published WikiLeaks cables from the US Embassy in Sofia described Boyko Borissov, the country's prime minister, as a person with links to the country's deep underground.
The European Parliament will assess today whether Bulgaria and Romania are ready to join the Schengen passport-free zone. The Parliament's civil liberties committee says they are, but also stresses that MEPs must be kept informed of additional measures to be taken in the Bulgaria-Turkey-Greece area to deal with any surge in migration pressure.