SP Euro-MP joins anti-corruption groups in slamming EU corruption policies

10 December 2013

SP Euro-MP joins anti-corruption groups in slamming EU corruption policies

Big words, small deeds: in the SP’s view, that’s how the European Commission’s anti-corruption policies can be summed up. This was the conclusion drawn at the end of a meeting in the European Parliament at which a number of social organisations concerned with anti-corruption policies did not mince their words when it came to criticising the Commission. The SP Euro-MP expressed complete agreement with the organisations, saying that ‘despite a great deal of urging from the European Parliament and others we’re still waiting for the European Commission’s first anti-corruption report. This report won’t only cover corruption in the member states, but also corruption within EU institutions.’

The meeting at the European Parliament was addressed by representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International and lobby transparency group ALTER-EU. UNODC’s Dimitri Vlassis stressed that as far as the UN was concerned the European Union must as soon as possible fulfil its responsibilities under the UN Treaty Against Corruption by at last reporting to the UN on the measures which it has taken against corruption. De Jong stated in response to this that NGOs had already drawn up a sort of shadow report so that the UN would in any case be up to date on abuses in the European institutions.

Carl Dolan, head of Transparency International’s representation in the EU, expressed tough criticism of the way in which EU institutions such as the European Central Bank (ECB) lack sound rules on transparency. He noted, for example, that the executive of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve or “Fed”, makes its minutes available, but the ECB does not do so. Olivier Hoedeman of ALTER-EU bemoaned the paucity of action from the Commission itself, its failure to tackle corruption within its own walls.

In May 2011 SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong and a group of like-minded MEPs presented an action plan against corruption in the European Union. At the time, European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström accepted the plan with enthusiasm, so it’s extremely disappointing that two-and-a-half years later the Commission has still not brought out its first report on the subject. This report should, in the European Parliament’s view, represent the start of further action, but will now come out right at the end of the present parliamentary term, missing the EP’s target date. De Jong reached the following conclusions:

  • A few points of the action plan have been realised: there is now a code of conduct for MEPs and proposals from the Commission to improve the fight against fraud are on the table. It’s a pity that the Commission thinks that instituting a European Office of Public Prosecutions will solve the problem and on this basis has taken no action which could lead to improvement in the short term. Too little is being done to increase the quality of the existing EU anti-fraud service, OLAF, while the Commission is refusing to comply with the proposal for a number of member states, including the Netherlands, to make member states add an auditors’ statement to their annual accounts of expenditure of EU moneys.
  • Nothing has been done about the recommendation that the European Commission, together with the member states, establish a programme whereby journalists and social organisations are aided in bringing corruption in the member states to light. Corruption must be combated not solely by means of prosecution, but by members of the public as well as the media, who no longer find corruption can be tolerated and exert in response sufficient pressure to counter it effectively. Such a programme must form part of the broader, post-Stockholm programme on justice and home affairs which the Council is currently elaborating.
  • Just as little has been done about the recommendation that every EU member state enact specific legislation for the protection of whistle-blowers. Also, whistle-blowers who expose abuses involving EU institutions must be able to count on protection and support. As things stand this has still not been put in place and could be immediately addressed by the Commission and the member states.
  • Two member states – Germany and the Czech Republic - have not yet ratified the UN convention against corruption. They should do so as soon as possible, because the convention offers a detailed framework for the anti-corruption activities of both the EU and its member states. The EU must, as a party to the convention, fulfil its responsibility to report to the UN on corruption within its own institutions, and right away. The Commission is hiding to far too great an extent behind questions of competence when it comes to reporting on the member states. Such matters provide, however, no argument as to why the Commission should not report on the integrity policies of the EU institutions themselves. As things stand the Commission is setting a bad example and undermining the UN’s monitoring process. In the meantime anti-corruption organisations have already lodged a shadow report on EU anti-corruption policies with the UN.
  • Of the various recommendations from the action plan aimed at strengthening the integrity policies of the European Commission itself, only a small part has been realised: the expert groups are being gradually made more balanced in their composition and the transparency register for lobbyists is currently being evaluated with the aid of the European Parliament and will hopefully be made more effective. There remains a great deal to do when it comes to combating conflicts of interest and to put an end to the ‘revolving doors’ via which former EU officials and ex-MEPs take jobs in areas for which they were previously responsible.
  • Still not legislated is the exclusion from public procurement procedures of companies involved in corruption. This recommendation was recently adopted as official policy by the European Parliament in its report of the special committee against organised crime, corruption and money-laundering. The new public procurement directive leaves space for a measure of this type. The member states should therefore move rapidly to reach agreement on the implementation of the directive on this point.

Read the 2011 action plan here.

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