Good governance and corruption

The EU has made fight against corruption one of
its highest political priorities, both in its internal affairs
and in its relations with third countries. In its relation with
the candidate countries, the EU systematically includes
corruption-related issues on the agenda and insists that its
future Member States set up and implement national
anti-corruption policies. The Union is also planning to make
the fight against corruption an integral part of its external
and trade policies.

Article 29 of the EU Treaty lists the
prevention and combating of corruption as one objective
enabling the creation of a European area of freedom,
security and justice. It foresees closer judicial, police
and customs cooperation, as well as approximation of
criminal law in order to fight corruption.

The action plan against organised
crime, adopted by the Council in 1997, advocates a
comprehensive policy against corruption. Responding to
this political guideline, the Commission presented a
Communication in the same year suggesting a range of
measures with a view to formulating an EU strategy on
corruption. The proposed measures include: banning of tax
deductibility of bribes, rules on public procurement
procedures, int roduction of accounting and auditing
standards, blacklisting of corrupt companies and measures
in the Unions external aid and assistance scheme.

The 1999 Tampere European Council
identified corruption as one of the sectors of particular
relevance where common definitions, incriminations and
sanctions should be agreed upon. In line with the Tampere
conclusions, the Millennium Strategy on the Prevention
and Control of Organised Crime of March 2004 reiterated
the need for instruments aimed at the approximation of
national legislation and developing a more general EU
policy towards corruption.

To date, 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 corruption
    involving officials of the European Communities or
    officials of the EU Member States (not yet
    ratified);
  • European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) was set up to
    address corruption within EU institutions.

In addition to that, the OECD
Convention on combating bribery of foreign public
officials in international business transactions and the
Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of the Council of
Europe are already in force, the latter still lacking
ratification instruments of most EU Member States.

In 2000, the UN General Assembly
decided to mandate an ad-hoc committee with the
elaboration of an international legal instrument against
corruption, the future UN Convention against corruption.
If agreed, this will have far-reaching implications for
the world-wide fight against corruption.

In its Communication on a
comprehensive EU policy against corruption, released in
May 2003, the European Commission states that the future
EU policy on corruption should consist of the following
core elements:

  • A strong political commitment against all forms of
    corruption should come from the highest level of EU
    institutions.
  • The implementation of existing anti-corruption
    instruments should be closely monitored and
    strengthened for the time being through the adhesion of
    the European Community to one or both Conventions on
    Corruption of the Council of Europe and the
    participation in its monitoring mechanism 
    GRECO

    .

  • EU Member States should develop and improve 
    investigative tools

    and allocate more 
    specialised staff

    to the fight against corruption.

  • Member States and EU institutions and bodies should
    enhance efforts to combat corruption damaging the
    financial interests of the European Community.
  • Common 
    integrity standards in public
    administrations

    across the EU such as the Common Assessment Framework
    of EU Heads of Civil Service and Public Administration
    should be further developed at EU level.

  • Member States and the Commission should support the
    private sector in its efforts to raise integrity
    and 
    corporate responsibility

    .

  • The fight against 
    political corruption

    and illicit financing of social partner entities and
    other interest groups needs to be strengthened at EU
    and Member States level.

  • In their permanent dialogue with acceding,
    candidate and other third countries, the Member States
    and the Commission should systematically include
    corruption-related issues and further assist these
    countries in their efforts to set-up and implement
    national anti-corruption policies.
  • The EU should continue making the fight against
    corruption an integral part of its 
    external and trade policy

    .

International anticorruption
initiatives

In its resolution 55/61 of 4 December
2000, the 
United Nations

G eneral Assembly recognised that an effective
international legal instrument against corruption,
independent of the UN Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime was desirable. Consequently, the UN set
up a Committee for the Negotiation of a Convention
against Corruption in December 2001. The UN states that
corruption causes reduced investment or even
disinvestment, with many long-term effects, including
social polarisation, lack of respect for human rights,
undemocratic practices and diversion of funds intended
for development and essential services. The diversion of
scarce resources by corrupt parties affects a
government's ability to provide basic services to its
citizens and to encourage sustainable economic, social
and political development. Moreover, it can jeopardize
the health and safety of citizens through, for example,
poorly designed infrastructure projects and scarce or
outdated medical supplies.

The 
World Bank

has identified corruption as "the single greatest
obstacle to economic and social development". It
undermines development by distorting the rule of law and
weakening the institutional foundation on which economic
growth depends. The harmful effects of corruption are
especially severe on the poor, who are hardest hit by
economic decline, are most reliant on the provision of
public services, and are least capable of paying the
extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the
misappropriation of economic privileges. Since 1996, the
World Bank has supported more than 600 anticorruption
programs and governance initiatives developed by its
member countries.  

Transparency International

, an international anticorruption NGO, focused its Global
Corruption Report 2003 on access to information and
called for corporate governance reforms after the Enron
scandal. The report underlines the media's role in the
fight against corruption, calls for better access to
government-held information and states that companies are
somewhat less likely to bribe now than before. However,
the the report warns: "Freedom of information is not
enough. However professionally and accurately information
is processed, corruption will continue to thrive without
the vigilance of the media and civil society, and the
bravery of investigative journalists and
whistleblowers."

The 
Council of Europe

Criminal Law Convention on Corruption entered into force
on 1 July 2002. The Convention aims at developing common
standards concerning certain corruption offences, though
it does not provide a uniform definition of corruption.
In addition, it deals with substantive and procedural law
matters, which closely relate to these corruption
offences and seeks to improve international
co-operation.

The 
Group of States against Corruption GRECO

was set up by the Council of Europe on 1 May 1999.
According to its Statute, the aim of the GRECO is to
improve its members' capacity to fight corruption by
monitoring the compliance of States with their
undertakings in this field. In this way, it will
contribute to identifying deficiencies and
insufficiencies of national mechanisms against
corruption, and to prompting the necessary legislative,
institutional and practical reforms in order to better
prevent and combat corruption.

The 
OECD

Convention on Combating Bribery of Officials in
International Business Transactions, adopted by 21
November 1997, deals with "active corruption" or "active
bribery", meaning the offence committed by the person who
promises or gives the bribe, as contrasted with "passive
bribery", the offence committed by the official who
receives the bribe.

European corruption cases

French politician 
Edith Cresson

is the first former European Commissioner to be charged
with corruption during her time in office. She was
charged in March 2003 by a Belgian investigating
magistrate with counterfeiting and personally benefiting
from EU contracts. Ms Cresson, who was education
commissioner from 1995-1999, stands accused for the
hiring of her dentist Rene Berthelot, who was allegedly
paid hundreds of thousands of francs in fictitious
salaries as a scientific consultant. The Commission is
also seeking explanations from Ms Cresson over fraud
allegations, which led to the first ever mass resignation
of the Commission in 1999.

In July 2003, the Commission again
came under fire for a case of alleged fraud at its
statistics office, the 
Eurostat

. While the Commission's own Internal Audit Service is
continuing its inquiry into the Eurostat case and the
EU's independent anti-fraud office OLAF is expected to
finalise its inquiry in October, the European Parliament
will question the Commission President Romani Prodi over
the affair. Mr Prodi is scheduled to appear in front of
the Parliament's Conference of Presidents on 25 September
2003 to report on the results of the internal
investigation by a special Commission Task Force into the
Eurostat affair. The Commission took a number of
precautionary measures in the Eurostat case in July when
the affair first broke out. The director general of
Eurostat was replaced and he is facing disciplinary
action together with two of his deputies. Six other
directors were moved temporarily from their duties.

The Commission's Communication on a
comprehensive EU policy against corruption from May 2003
will be discussed by the European Parliament and the
Council.  

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