Council of Europe
On 3 January, GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, published a report assessing Spain’s compliance with its recommendations to prevent and combat corruption in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors. Four years after the adoption of the Fourth round evaluation report in December 2013, GRECO concluded that that there was limited progress in Spain in complying with its recommendations and that the country’s level of compliance remained “globally unsatisfactory”.
On 18 January, GRECO released Romania’s compliance report on corruption prevention in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors (4th Round). The anticorruption body noticed that of the 13 recommendations contained in its evaluation report, only two were dealt with satisfactorily and four were partly implemented. GRECO notably acknowledged the role of the National Integrity Agency (ANI) in controlling MPs’ asset and interest declarations, but it also pointed out that some elected representatives in situations of incompatibility were maintained in office and that certain decisions were still not enforced. In general, the report considered that Romania’s level of compliance was also “globally unsatisfactory”.
On 22 January, the new president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Michele Nicoletti, delivered the opening speech of the 2018 session. He spoke about the value of parliamentarism and argued that the “battle against political corruption must be relentless” at all levels, including within international organizations. He stressed the importance of the exemplarity, transparency and collective responsibility of institutions like the PACE.
On 17 January, Emilie O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, recommended that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, suspend his membership of the G30, a Washington-based international group of bankers. His participation in this selective and secretive forum was deemed “contrary to ethics”. Even though Ms O’Reilly did not refer to conflicts of interests, she remarked that participation in these meetings, which are never made public, convey the impression of being contrary to ethical rules, according to her spokesperson, Gundi Gadesmann.
On 23 January, the Council of the European Union removed eight jurisdictions from the EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, following commitments made at a high political level. Barbados, Grenada, the Republic of Korea, Macao SAR, Mongolia, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates were moved to a separate category of jurisdictions subject to close monitoring.
On 24 January, a report commissioned by the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament shows that much more ambition is required in the fight against corruption within Bulgaria and at EU level. This report was released shortly after the start of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU.
On 29 January, negotiations started between the Parliament, Council and Commission on a new inter-institutional on a mandatory transparency register for lobbyists. At the end of 2017, under Estonian presidency and after months of internal discussions, the Council reached a common negotiating position.
On 31 January, the European Commission officially renewed the code of conduct for its members. Innovations include the extension of the cooling-off period before engaging in new professional activities of 18 months to 2 years for Commissioners, and to 3 years for the President of the Commission. Moreover, a definition of conflict of interest was adopted for the first time, and stricter rules on declarations of interests were set out.
The fight against corruption was at the heart of the thirtieth summit of the African Union (AU), which was held from 22 to 29 January in Addis Ababa. As a matter of fact, the subject was chosen as a priority for the regional organization in 2018. In particular, the consequences of corruption for development were discussed. On 25 January, at a session of the AU Executive Council, Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), underlined that the continent has been losing 148 billion dollars a year due to various fraudulent activities. This sum represents about 25% of the average GDP of Africa. Substantial resources that could have been spent on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals are being squandered.
On 28 January, AU Heads of State pledged to join forces to fight corruption in the continent. African leaders welcomed efforts to eradicate this phenomenon, such as the creation of anticorruption institutions in many countries. Yet, they stressed that much remains to be done to address this challenge to prosperity, peace and good governance in Africa.
On 11 January, Transparency International (TI) welcomed the decision of Luxembourg’s Court of Cassation, which overturned the verdict against Antoine Deltour, a whistleblower involved in the LuxLeaks scandal. Nonetheless, the NGO noted that the sentence of Raphael Halet, another LuxLeaks whistleblower, was upheld. Mr. Halet will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, considering that he acted in good faith and with the intention of advancing the fight against tax evasion. In this perspective, TI advocated for effective legal protection of whistleblowers, at the European and national levels, to ensure that those who expose serious threats to the public interest are not punished.