Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
On June 22nd, 2017, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report on the fight against transnational corruption in the Czech Republic, 17 years after the ratification in this country of the OECD anti-bribery convention, and no prosecution for corruption by foreign public officials has taken place since. The report emphasized that important steps remain to be taken regarding the independence of prosecuting authorities or the protection of whistleblowers, for example, but recognized that the recommendations made by the Working Group against Bribery in 2013, particularly in terms of raising awareness, have been well implemented.
Council of Europe
Adopted in March, 2017, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) made public, on June 9th, 2017, its 17th Annual General Report. It highlights a sustained level of implementation of the recommendations put forth despite a slowdown in the third and fourth rounds of evaluation. GRECO encourages member states to give more importance to preventative measures against corruption. For example, while codes of conduct for members of parliaments have sometimes been introduced, the monitoring of integrity and the prevention of conflicts of interests of members of parliaments must be strengthened overall, as well as the regimes of assets declaration applicable to them. It is also recommended that lobbying activities be more widely regulated. Finally, GRECO notes a growing interest in its activities and recommendations and details the continued implementation of activities of cooperation with other international organizations, such as the OECD.
On June 21st, GRECO additionally made public its assessment of the code of conduct for members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It criticized the mechanism currently in place by pointing out, among other things, “excessively discretionary” decisions. GRECO regrets that the members of the parliamentary assembly are not well informed of and trained in the standards of integrity and their implications.
On June 27th, the parliamentary assembly adopted an amendment to its regulations providing the possibility of removing the president by a two-thirds majority vote, 24 or 48 hours after the tabling of a motion of non-confidence. Indeed, the standing president of the parliamentary assembly, the conservative Spanish senator Pedro Agramunt, has refused to resign for two months, following a controversial trip to Syria and suspicions of corruption.
On June 23rd, GRECO published a second compliance report on corruption prevention for members of the parliament, judges and prosecutors in Finland. GRECO congratulated Finland for its implementation of the recommendations made in the framework of this cycle, which is finalized by this report. Also on the 23rd of June, GRECO made public its compliance report for Estonia on the same issues. Out of 19 recommendations made in 2012, 14 have been fully and 5 have been partially implemented. Estonia has notably strengthened its declaration obligations and adopted a code of conduct for its members of Parliament, along with a guidance document presenting concrete cases of conflicts of interests or offered benefits.
- European Prosecutor’s office
On June 8th, 20 member States of the European Union decided to launch a strengthened cooperation aimed at creating a European prosecutor’s office to combat financial fraud, which could handle cases of fraud surpassing € 10,000 or transnational fraud concerning the VAT, for example. While the European Parliament has yet to speak on this matter, the office would be established in Luxemburg and consist of a general prosecutor and 20 magistrates (one per state), with a related unit in each member state. The structure in France, for example, would consist of 8 judges.
- European Parliament
On June 15th, 2017, the European Parliament adopted its mandate of negotiation at the Conference of Presidents in the context of future discussions on a new interinstitutional agreement between the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the EU on a mandatory register of transparency. Among the principal objectives stated in the mandate are the inclusion of the Council of the EU in this common register, the assurance of the proper functioning of the register, the monitoring of declared data by allocating sufficient resources and the necessity to improve the quality of the information collected by the register.
Certain organizations of civil society such as Transparency International EU or Alter-EU have acknowledged the progress in the mandate, but consider it too meek and have accordingly made public a forum and a report calling for European institutions to go beyond the proposed reforms. They notably ask them to widen the scope of the register (for example, to the representatives wishing to communicate with officials of the Parliamentary Secretariat and the Council).
- European Ombudsman
On June 20th, Access Info Europe and 53 applicants filed a complaint to the European Ombudsman for failure to register, process, and respond to communication requests dating back to January 2017 concerning the travel expenses of European Commissioners in 2016. The stated objective is to improve not only the communication of these items to the public but also the maintenance of the archives of the European Commission.
On June 20th, during the conference of the European Network of Ombudsmen, the third work session was dedicated to the presentation of the results of a joint study by the OECD and EU Ombudsman on the role of ombudsmen in the promotion of Open Government, examining 86 institutions in 59 countries, as well as the EU ombudsman. The study revealed that 61% of these institutions have adopted a code of conduct, 69% have mechanisms of declarations of assets and/or conflicts of interest, and 72% have their strategy or plan of action freely accessible to citizens. 45% of these institutions openly publish the results of their investigations under aggregated formats and 22% do so systematically for each investigation. These institutions have strong ties with third-party actors and these relationships have multiple goals: to promote the role of the ombudsman, to strengthen the usage of ombudsmen services by citizens and to strengthen the implementation of their recommendations. The study emphasized that, despite the impact these institutions have on the promotion of transparency and the strengthening of citizen trust, they remain little associated with the national agenda in terms of open government.
- European Food Safety Authority
On June 14th, the Corporate Europe Observatory published a report showing that close to half of the experts of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) find themselves in a situation of conflicts interest with actors regulated by their agency. The EFSA rejected the conclusions of this organization of civil society and published a press release on the measures newly adopted by the authority to strengthen its independence.
On June 7th, Transparency International EU and other organizations of civil society created the coalition ALL Alliance for democracy. This alliance aims to promote European cooperation and dialogue on matters of democracy, good governance, and anticorruption reforms.
On June 21st, the Transparency Group of the College of Europe presented its work to the direct of the department of political and administrative studies, Olivier Costa, a representative of Transparency International EU, Léo Hoffmann-Axthelm. The contributions will shortly be published on the website of Transparency International EU.