Council of Europe
From 3 to 7 December, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) held its 81st plenary meeting, during which it adopted three 5th round evolution reports on Estonia, the Netherlands and Poland, regarding the prevention of corruption in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies. GRECO also adopted eight compliance reports and its 2019 program of activities. In addition, preparations for its 20th anniversary in 2019 were discussed.
On 7 December, GRECO published its 5th round evaluation report on Estonia. It pointed to a number of areas where improvements should be made. In particular, clear standards on risks of conflicts of interest should be defined and illustrated with concrete examples. Moreover, GRECO recommended the adoption of rules to prevent revolving doors and to increase the transparency of the relations between members of government and interest representatives.
On the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, the President of GRECO called on states to redouble their efforts to fully implement the recommendations made by this body
On 13 December, GRECO published its 2nd addendum to the 2nd compliance report of the 3rd evaluation round on Sweden. This document examines the measures taken by Swedish authorities to enhance the transparency of party funding, and concludes that the majority of GRECO’s recommendations were dealt with in a satisfactory manner.
In the 4th round compliance report on Italy, released on 13 December, GRECO observed that the country made progress in preventing corruption among judges and prosecutors, but regretted the delays in implementing its recommendations for MPs. Despite the shortcomings of the taken measures, GRECO welcomed the creation of a mandatory lobbying register in the Chamber of Deputies.
On 19 December, GRECO published its 2nd addendum to the 2nd compliance report of the 3rd evaluation round on Georgia. Progress was noted in ensuring that an independent mechanism is in place for the monitoring of political party and campaign funding. However, GRECO detected a number of pending issues and urged Georgian authorities to complete some legislative reforms in this area.
On 6 December, the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) proposed the introduction of a new measure that would allow MEPs to report their use of the general expenditure allowance on the Parliament’s website. This would be voluntary, but the AFCO believes that citizens’ pressure for transparency would prompt MEPs to file expense reports publicly. A vote on the proposal will take place in January.
On 11 December, Transparency International (TI) sent a letter to the President and some members of the European Parliament calling for an investigation into the influence of foreign states on MEPs. This request came in the wake of the investigation conducted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) into corruption allegations connected with the Azeri government, which was suspected of offering gifts to members of the institution to influence their decisions. TI urged the Parliament to follow the example of the PACE.
On 13 December, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on conflicts of interest and the protection of the EU budget in the Czech Republic. In this text, the institution requests that the Czech Government investigate the allegations of conflict of interest against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is suspected of controlling Agrofer, a conglomerate that received EU subsidies. Furthermore, the Parliament called on the European Commission to submit a detailed report on this case and to evaluate the effectiveness of EU-supported anti-corruption efforts.
In an article published on 28 December, Franklin Dehousse, a former judge of the Court of Justice of the EU, decried the negative impact of this body on transparency in EU institutions. In particular, he cited the decision made by the General Court in September, when it confirmed the European Parliament’s refusal to grant access to documents relating to MEPs’ allowances, on account of personal data protection. According to Mr. Dehousse, the approach adopted by European judges is harmful because transparency is crucial to restore public trust.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
On 13 and 14 December, a conference on the implementation of corruption prevention mechanisms was held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission to Serbia and the country’s Anti-Corruption Agency, with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a follow-up to the International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, more than 100 senior officials from South-Eastern Europe gathered in Belgrade to discuss good practices and challenges in this area. In particular, participants recognized the fundamental role of transparent and accountable institutions in reinforcing public trust.
International Olympic Committee
On 6 December, AFP reported that Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has formally requested the cooperation of Senegalese authorities in the French judicial investigations into corruption allegations at International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and into the awarding of the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio in 2016 and the 2020 Games to Tokyo. Indeed, one of the key players in the case, Papa Massata Diack, has fled to Dakar. Mr. Diack is the son of the IAAF president and acted as a marketing consultant for the organization. He is suspected of having received bribes to favor the Brazilian and Japanese cities’ applications. Mr. Bach’s request to President Macky Sall came after the recent awarding of the Youth Olympic Games to Senegal.
On 10 December, Transparency International (TI) reviewed the 2018 G20’s anti-corruption efforts. The NGO highlighted the strengths of the new G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan, such as its a strong focus on implementation of commitments made or its willingness to address the links between gender and corruption. Nonetheless, TI noted that weaknesses still remain, like the failure to explicitly link previous commitments with the new G20 anti-corruption priorities and the Action Plan.