Tackling Corruption Across the EU: assessing the state of corruption in the EU

What’s the state of play of (anti-)corruption in the European Union (EU)?

If Albert Einstein had joined the Transparency International Liaison Office to the EU (TI-EU) conference to mark the UN International Anti-Corruption Day 2011, he would have probably replied in a similar way to his student who once exclaimed: “The questions on this year’s exam are the same as last year’s!” “Yes,” Einstein answered, “but this year all the answers are different.”

Let’s take stock then of what a civil society representative, an EU policy-maker and a legal practitioner thought in the first plenary session of the event:

What are the questions that remain the same?

As Luis de Sousa (Chair of Transparency International’s contact point in Portugal) pointed out, practical obstacles in the prosecution of corruption cases include: a lack of anti-corruption expertise on the national level within academia and among practitioners; a lack of information-sharing among EU member states, including dilatory replies to mutual legal assistance requests; a lack of trust among national judicial authorities, and; a lack of dialogue among policy stakeholders. In sum, increased judicial coordination was found to be crucial both with regard to the investigation and the prosecution stage. We at the TI-EU office would add even more spice to it: what about a common, EU-wide definition of what corruption actually is?

Are this year’s answers really any different?

According to Jakub Boraytnski (Head of the European Commission’s organised crime unit), the 27 EU member states do not have to “fear” any additional comprehensive anti-corruption legislation from Brussels in the next year. At this point in time, the Union rather requires a snapshot of cross-cutting and country-specific vulnerabilities, which the new EU Anti-Corruption Report tool will cover as of 2013. We at the TI-EU office hope that the added value of this report will be twofold: first, peer-learning among EU member states and, second, a political voice on corruption for the EU.

What are the challenges for EU institutions and governments to face in the future then?

Praising the UK Anti-bribery Act as a model for closing the extra-territoriality gap, Ben Rose (Solicitor and Founding Partner of Hickman and Rose Solicitors) nonetheless identified several obstacles that are characteristic to investigating and prosecuting corruption charges. Among those are, for example, endemic state interference in highly political corruption cases; significant resource cuts at the law enforcement level, and; scattered implementation and uneven enforcement of anti-corruption legislation at the national level – all of which ultimately contributes to the improper and ineffective enforcement of anti-corruption laws. If lawyers are to advise the business sector in a manner that is conducive to enhancing private sector integrity, supra-national institutions (such as the EU) and governments have, in his view, an obligation to ensure consistent implementation and effective enforcement of anti-corruption legislation across countries.

To view the entire debate, click here: Live webcast: Tackling Corruption Across The EU – Watch live online on Wed 7 Dec

This blog is part of series of blogs covering the different conference sessions, the first of which can be accessed here.

Dr. Janina Berg, EU Policy and Legal Officer, Transparency International Liaison Office to the European Union (TI-EU)

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