Member states get low marks on foreign bribery

Former Waterloo Mayor Serge Kubla was indicted for accepting bribes from Congolese officials. Belgium gets low ranks in Transparency International's report on anti-bribery measures

Former Waterloo Mayor Serge Kubla was indicted for accepting bribes from Congolese officials. Belgium gets low ranks in Transparency International's report on anti-bribery measures. [Olivia Charles/Flickr]

Eleven EU countries have little or no measures set up to stop bribery in foreign business deals, according to a report published yesterday (20 August) by Transparency International.

Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Estonia and Spain were all slammed for their flimsy efforts to adhere to the OECD convention on combating foreign bribery.

“Compared to developing countries where they sell their products, companies from these countries have all the resources they need. But their governments don’t provide sufficient resources for prosecuting bribery cases,” said Adam Foldes, one of the authors of the report.

“It’s a sign that there’s a lack of political support to prioritise anti-foreign bribery measures,”

Forty-one countries have agreed to anti-bribery measures spelled out in the OECD convention, including twenty-two EU member states.

Romania, Lithuania, Croatia, Cyprus and Malta aren’t signatories of the convention. Latvia is, but wasn’t included in the Transparency International report because of its low share in world exports.

Foldes said the more a country exports, the more likely its companies were bribed abroad.

Greece was bumped up to the “limited enforcement” category from its previous spot as one of the countries with little or no measures to stop bribery.

According to the OECD’s March summary, Greece’s new anti-corruption law passed last year is improving the situation there. But the country’s recent work to combat corruption has been isolated.

“The National Anti-Corruption Action Plan and other government policies continue to only address ‘corruption’ generally which is interpreted as referring only to domestic corruption,” the OECD report said.

“This sends an unfortunate message that fighting domestic corruption is a priority during an economic crisis, but foreign bribery is an acceptable means to win overseas business and improve Greece’s economy.”

>>Read: EU anti-corruption report stops short of ‘naming and shaming’

Transparency International slammed those countries ranked as worst offenders for not enforcing laws or training prosecutors on foreign bribery.

Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia all lack the funds and trained staff to prosecute those cases, according to the report.

Some companies based in countries that scored high on anti-bribery have been accused of bribery within the EU in recent years. In 2010, German weapons manufacturer Ferrostaal allegedly bribed a Greek official, while accusations were raised against Finnish company Patria in 2008 for bribing the Slovenian government to land a contract.

Foldes said a lot of European companies implicated in bribery accusations export to developing countries.

In Belgium, former mayor of Waterloo Serge Kubla was indicted earlier this year for allegedly facilitating bribes for steel manufacturer Duferco from Congolese officials.

“The EU spends a significant amount of money on development in some countries. When European companies are bribing there it’s a very serious contradiction,” Foldes said.
“Why do we we waste our money? On the one hand we take and on the other we give.”

The European Commission published its first report on corruption in EU member states last year, but didn’t rank or single out countries according to their track records.

The European Commission published on 3 February 2014 a 40 page-long corruption report covering the overall situation in the 28-country bloc, coupled with individual chapters on each country, of approximately a dozen pages each. The package is supplemented by a 230-page Eurobarometer survey on corruption.

The EU executive said that its rather modest ambition was to launch a debate on the corruption and identify ways in which the EU could help fight the scourge.

Corruption is estimated to cost the EU economy €120 billion per year. That amounts to about 1% of EU GDP and represents only a little less than the annual budget of the European Union.

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