Council of Europe
On 8 December, during its plenary meeting, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, adopted the Fifth Round Evaluation reports on the United Kingdom and Slovenia. This new round examines corruption prevention and integrity promotion in central governments and law enforcement agencies.
Besides, GRECO decided to carry out ad hoc urgent evaluations of draft legislative amendments concerning the judiciary in Romania, and on two draft laws on the reorganization of the Supreme Court and of the National Council of the Judiciary in Poland. It is the first time GRECO is using Rule 34 of its Rules of Procedure, recently introduced to allow ad hoc procedures in exceptional circumstances. This rule can be applied when an institutional reform, legislative initiative or procedural change may result in a member’s serious violation of a Council of Europe anti-corruption standard which has been the subject of any GRECO evaluation round. The ad hoc reports of Romania and Poland should be adopted in March 2018.
On the eve of the International Anti-Corruption Day, celebrated on 9 December, the Chair of GRECO, Marin Mrčela, stated that 2017 has been “a dark year on the anti-corruption front.” He noted that many allegations of corruption in public and private organizations eroded people’s trust in them. Mr. Mrčela underlined that to eradicate corruption in our societies, robust legislation and independent institutions are crucial, but insufficient. According to him, it is fundamental that honest people show leadership and lead by example with integrity.
On 22 December, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, sent a letter to the President of Romania, in which he asked him to rethink the reforms of the judiciary. In particular, he urged Romanian authorities to seek the expertise of the Venice Commission regarding these reforms in order to provide clarity on their compatibility with rule of law standards. The Commission is the Council’s advisory body on constitutional matters. Its mission is to advance democracy through law. Mr. Jagland specified that the Commission’s opinion would be complementary to the urgent assessment of these texts, which is being prepared by GRECO.
In December 2017, the European Ombudsman presented a report that analyzed how EU institutions responded to its decisions made in 2016. There was an 85% compliance rate, up two points from 2015. The institutions reacted positively to 77 out of the 91 proposals put forward by the Ombudsman to correct or improve their behavior. Nevertheless, the Ombudsman emphasized that any refusal to comply with one of its proposals should be seen as a missed opportunity to address administrative shortcomings.
Moreover, the European Commission released a Special Eurobarometer on corruption perceptions and experiences in the EU. This public opinion survey shows that over two thirds (68%) of Europeans think that corruption is widespread in their country, and a large majority (79%) consider that the links between business and politics favor it. Just under three-quarters (73%) of respondents believe that there is corruption in national public institutions and that current measures against corruption are inadequate.
Furthermore, on 5 December, the Council of the European Union published a list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. It also agreed on applying “defensive” measures with regard to the 17 listed jurisdictions. The aim is to promote good governance worldwide, in order to maximize efforts to prevent tax fraud and tax evasion. The Council’s work on the list has been conducted in parallel with the OECD and in the context of the G20. The NGO Transparency International criticized the lack of transparency in the process of producing the list.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
On 12 December, a statement by Drago Kos, Chair of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) working group on bribery, was issued to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Anti-Bribery Convention. Signed in 1997, this OECD convention, which has 43 states parties, establishes standards to criminalize bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions. Mr. Kos assessed the results of this convention. He praised the progress made while also identifying a number of shortcomings. In this context, he announced the release of a report on the detection of foreign bribery that outlines areas where improvements are needed.
On 5 December, the NGO Transparency International and 18 organizations launched a Eurozone watchdog network. Open to any individual or organization, the goal of this network is to ensure that ongoing negotiations on the reform of the Eurozone make the governance of the common currency more transparent and more democratic.
On 8 December, the Digital Award for Transparency honored six initiatives from developing countries that strengthen the accountability of institutions and fight corruption through digital tools. These initiatives were developed by civil society actors in Tunisia, Senegal, Madagascar and Burkina Faso. The award was given by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in partnership with Transparency International, the French Operator in Media Cooperation and the civic technology incubator Liberté Living-Lab.