Dealing with corruption in Central and Eastern Europe

The Commission has been monitoring corruption in
the future EU Member States since the beginning of the
enlargement process in order to allay fears of European
citizens about ethics of governance in Central and Eastern
Europe.

The EU has adopted the following legal
instruments and measures to combat corruption:

  • Convention on the protection of the European
    Communities financial interests (entered into force on
    17 October 2002);
  • Convention on the fight against corrup tion
    involving officials of the European Communities or
    officials of the EU Member States (not yet
    ratified);
  • European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) was set up
    address corruption within EU institutions.

In its Communication on a
comprehensive EU policy against corruption, released in
May 2003, the European Commission proposed measures for
preventing and combating corruption in Europe.

 

The Communication on a comprehensive
EU policy against corruption proposes 10 principles for
improving the fight against corruption in acceding,
candidate and other third countries:

  • To ensure credibility, a clear stance against
    corruption is essential from leaders and
    decision-makers. Bearing in mind that no universally
    applicable recipes exist,
    national anti-corruption strategies

    or programmes, covering both preventive and repressive
    measures, should be drawn up and implemented. These
    strategies should be subject to broad consultation at
    all levels.

  • Current and future EU Members shall fully align
    with the EU law and ratify and implement all main
    international anti-corruption instruments they are
    party to (UN, Council of Europe and OECD Conventions).
    Third countries should sign and ratify as well as
    implement relevant
    international anti-corruption
    instruments

    .

  • Anti-corruption laws

    are important, but more important is their
    implementation by competent and visible anti-corruption
    bodies (i.e. well trained and specialised services such
    as anti-corruption prosecutors). Targeted investigative
    techniques, statistics and indicators should be
    developed. The role of law enforcement bodies should be
    strengthened concerning not only corruption but also
    fraud, tax offences and money laundering.

  • Access to public office

    must be open to every citizen. Recruitment and
    promotion should be regulated by objective and
    merit-based criteria. Salaries and social rights must
    be adequate. Civil servants should be required to
    disclose their assets. Sensitive posts should be
    subject to rotation.

  • Integrity, accountability and transparency in
    public administration

    (judiciary, police, customs, tax administration, health
    sector, public procurement) should be raised through
    employing quality management tools and auditing and
    monitoring standards, such as the Common Assessment
    Framework of EU Heads of Public Administrations and the
    Strasbourg Resolution. Increased transparency is
    important in view of developing confidence between the
    citizens and public administration.

  • Codes of conduct

    in the public sector should be established and
    monitored.

  • Clear rules should be established in both the
    public and private sector on
    whistle blowing

    (given that corruption is an offence without direct
    victims who could witness and report it) and
    reporting.

  • Public intolerance of corruption should be
    increased, through
    awareness raising campaigns

    in the media and training. The central message must be
    that corruption is not a tolerable phenomenon, but a
    criminal offence. Civil society has an important role
    to play in preventing and fighting the problem.

  • Clear and transparent rules on party financing, and
    external financial control of
    political parties

    , should be introduced to avoid covert links between
    politicians and (illicit) business interests. Political
    parties evidently have strong influence on
    decision-makers, but are often immune to anti-bribery
    laws.

  • Incentives should be developed for the private
    sector to refrain from corrupt practices such as codes
    of conduct or white lists for faultless companies.

 

The Commission made the following
assessment of the candidate countries regarding
corruption in its regular report in 2002:

Bulgaria</ td>
  • National Anti-Corruption Strategy was
    adopted in October 2001.
  • Action Plan for Implementation of the
    Strategy was adopted in February 2002.
  • A Committee was set up to co-ordinate
    activities in the fight against
    corruption.
  • The challenge now will be to maintain the
    momentum to ensure full implementation of the
    programme.
  • Bulgarias ranking in indexes of
    international perceptions has improved.
    However, the public still ranks corruption as
    one of the most serious problems facing the
    country.
  • The high level of corruption is attributed
    to factors such as low salaries, imperfect
    legislation, lack of transparent administrative
    controls and poor functioning of the judicial
    system.
  • Customs, occupations linked to the judicial
    system, tax officials, parliamentarians, police
    and ministry officials are perceived to be
    among the most corrupt groups.
  • Corruption is also seen as having a
    negative effect on the business and investment
    climate and therefore on economic
    development.
  • Whilst progress has been made in setting
    the framework for tackling corruption,
    practical steps have yet to be taken to fully
    enforce this.
Cyprus
  • Cyprus has a comprehensive legal framework
    against fraud and corruption.
  • The Penal Code defines a series of offences
    of official corruption.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Law sanctions
    both public and private corruption.
  • The Public Service Law of 1990 contains
    special anti-corruption provisions and a
    corresponding code of conduct allows for
    compulsory retirement or dismissal after a
    disciplinary punishment.
  • However, Cyprus still lacks a comprehensive
    anti-corruption policy, as is evidenced by the
    absence of any regulation on funding of
    political parties.  
  • Its law-enforcement mechanism does not use
    sufficiently proactive methods and its
    intelligence-gathering system has several
    pitfalls.
Czech Republic
  • Corruption and economic crime remain a
    serious cause for concern.
  • In April 2002 the Czech Government approved
    its own report on corruption which confirms
    that the situation is not improving.
  • It noted that bribery in the public
    administration and fraud in the private sector
    continue to be significant problems.
  • Corruption continues to affect the proper
    functioning of the state administration, the
    police, healthcare, banking, the judiciary and
    intelligence services and that it also
    influences the political sphere.
  • Public opinion is increasingly concerned
    about corruption and economic crime.
Estonia
  • Corruption generally appears to remain a
    relatively limited problem.
  • The Anti-Corruption Act in force since
    March 1999 forms the basis for the prevention
    and prosecution of corruption and includes a
    Code of Ethics for public officials.
  • The new Penal Code, which entered into
    force in September 2002, brings Estonian
    legislation further into line with EU standards
    in the field of the fight against
    corruption.
  • Whilst the legislative framework is mostly
    in place, Estonia does not have a specific
    strategy to fight corruption.
  • However, specific bodies do have individual
    anti-corruption strategies.
  • Also, the National Strategy for Crime
    Prevention 2000-2003 contains a number of
    anti-corruption objectives.
Hungary
  • Corruption continues to be a problem in
    Hungary.
  • A long-term anti-corruption strategy was
    adopted in 2001.
  • The revised Law on Public Procurement
    adopted in November 2001 tightened up the
    surveillance of contract award pro
    cedures.
  • In December 2001 a new law was adopted
    concerning the liability of legal persons.
  • Within the amended Penal Code, which
    entered into force in April 2002, more severe
    punishments and sentences for bribery were
    introduced.
  • Despite these efforts, overall public
    perception of efforts to fight corruption has
    not really improved and many areas in the
    public sphere continue to have a bad reputation
    in this respect.
Latvia
  • Corruption remains a source of
    concern.
  • The perceived level of corruption in Latvia
    continues to be relatively high, to the
    detriment of public trust in the public
    administration, the judiciary and private
    investors' confidence.
  • Overall, Latvia has made further progress
    in the fight against corruption.
  • The legislative framework has been
    improved, foreseeing the strengthening of the
    institutional set-up, and both public awareness
    and the involvement of civil society are on the
    increase.
  • However, further efforts are needed to
    clarify and consolidate the institutional
    set-up and to provide the new Anti-Corruption
    Bureau with the necessary means to effectively
    ensure its independence.
  • The Latvian Government should remain
    strongly committed to further combating
    high-level political corruption.
Lithuania
  • Corruption remains a source of concern, in
    particular in sectors such as customs, the
    police and the health system.
  • There has been considerable further
    progress in the fight against corruption at
    both legislative and administrative level.
  • However, further efforts should be made by
    law enforcement bodies and line ministries to
    ensure the proper implementation of the
    National Anti-Corruption Programme.
  • Further efforts are also required to
    strengthen co-operation in practice between law
    enforcement bodies and with the Prosecutor's
    Office.
  • Public procurement procedures need to be
    applied with greater rigour and consistency,
    ensuring full transparency.
  • Given that the present institutional set-up
    gives priority to repressive measures, more
    attention should be paid to prevention.
Malta
  • There have been positive developments over
    the past year, with the adoption of legislation
    strengthening fight against corruption and of a
    Regulation setting up an independent Public
    Contracts Appeals Board.
  • Further alignment with the EU's public
    procurement law is still needed.
  • There is no specific anti-corruption
    programme in Malta.
  • No improvement has been noted in the
    effectiveness of the Permanent Commission
    against Corruption.
Poland
  • Corruption remains a source of serious
    concern.
  • Corruption phenomenon in Poland threatens
    to undermine the functioning of many public
    spheres.
  • There are still a large number of measures
    which could be taken to put in place a
    comprehensive approach to this problem.
OLAF's partner in
:
Romania
  • Corruption remains a widespread and
    systemic problem in Romania that is largely
    unresolved.
  • Despite a legal framework that is
    reasonably comprehensive law enforcement
    remains weak.
  • New institutional structures have been
    created but are not yet fully operational.
  • Corruption remains a common aspect of
    commercial ope rations but is also widely
    reported in dealings with public bodies as well
    as at the political level.
  • Such high levels of corruption undermine
    economic development and erode popular trust in
    state institutions.
  • There has been no noticeable reduction of
    corruption during the reporting period.
  • No progress has been made in making the
    funding of political parties more transparent
    or in addressing potential conflicts of
    interest of politicians and civil
    servants.
  • Corruption in Romania is all the more
    worrying because the institutions most involved
    in fighting corruption, including the police
    and the judiciary, are also affected by the
    phenomenon.
Slovakia
  • Corruption remains cause for serious
    concern.
  • Implementation of the National Programme
    for the Fight against Corruption has continued,
    but the co-ordination of measures amongst the
    relevant ministries and bodies has continued to
    be weak.
  • Further progress has been achieved on
    increasing transparency in the field of public
    procurement, public enterprises and party
    financing.
  • Progress has been made on implementing the
    Law on Free Access to Information, thus
    contributing to increased transparency within
    the administration and reinforcing the fight
    against corruption.
  • Despite a high degree of alignment of
    legislation, corporate crime is a specific
    problem and the business climate is
    characterised by legal uncertainty attributable
    to the still weak functioning of the judiciary
    and a certain instability of the legal
    framework.
Slovenia
  • Corruption appears to be a rather limited
    problem although public perception seems to
    regard corruption as more widespread than shown
    by official statistics.
  • Progress has been made in the past year in
    establishing a coherent anticorruption
    policy.
  • Although there is no specific
    anti-corruption legislation, a legal framework
    for anticorruption measures has been
    established.
  • Slovenian legislation includes provisions
    on conflicts of interest, but public
    procurement in particular remains a vulnerable
    area.
  • Preventing conflict-of-interest situations
    should be given more attention.
Turkey
  • Corruption remains a serious problem in
    Turkey.
  • A number of steps have been taken to
    prevent corruption and corrupt practices.
  • The adoption of a strategy to enhance
    transparency and good governance is a welcome
    development, and due attention should now be
    given to its implementation.

 

The Commission will assess the
progress on anti-corruption measures in the 10 future
Member States and three candidate countries in its
regular report, to be adopted on 5 November 2003.
 

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