05 / 31 / 2018

Council of Europe

On 3 April, the Group of States against corruption (GRECO) published its compliance report for Montenegro in the framework of the fourth evaluation round on corruption prevention in respect of members of Parliament, judges and prosecutors. The Group welcomed measures adopted in Montenegro in order to establish integrity plans on the one hand, including in the Parliament that now also has an ethics code, and to rationalize the financial disclosure system and increase resources allocated to the anticorruption agency on the other hand. 6 out of the 11 recommendations formulated in the evaluation report have been satisfactorily implemented, 2 partially and 3 not implemented yet.

An ad hoc report published on 11 April highlighted the GRECO’s concerns with regard to aspects of the laws recently adopted by Parliament on the status of judges and prosecutors, on the judicial organization and on the Superior Council of Magistracy. The most controversial elements presented during summer 2017 disappeared, but the Group concluded that the impact assessment of such reforms was erroneous and the validity of the legislative procedure that led to the adoption of these reforms was questionable. The GRECO notably asked that the creation of a new special prosecutor’s section for investigation of offences in the judiciary is abandoned. The report also took note of the process to dismiss the Head of the specialized anticorruption prosecutor’s office (DNA) launched in February 2018 and called on the adoption of additional guarantees with regard to nominations and dismissal procedures.

On 12 April, the GRECO published its evaluation report for Iceland in the framework of the fifth evaluation round on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies. After the financial crisis in 2008 revealed shortcomings and several controversies led to the resignation of two governments and senior civil servants, the Group stressed that no global strategy has been implemented to promote integrity in the State institutions. The GRECO thus called on Iceland to adopt stronger and more coherent codes of conduct, notably with regard to gifts and benefits or relations with third parties in order to influence government decision making processes and to revolving doors and secondary activities regulations.

On 24 April, an interim compliance report for the fourth evaluation round was published for Belgium. Since 2014, when the evaluation report was published, Belgium has satisfactorily implemented one of the 15 recommendations and seven partially. The report highlighted important progress in the measures adopted in march 2018 with regard to prevention of corruption of members of parliament (publication of mandates held by MPs and remunerations perceived, strengthening of the sanction powers of the Court of auditors in case of non-compliance with declarative obligations, etc.). Yet the Group found the compliance level remains overall “globally unsatisfactory”

On 22 April, Independent Investigation Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe published its investigation report, one year after being mandated to investigate the so-called “Caviargate”. The report strongly endorsed recommendations drafted by the GRECO in 2017 and concluded that there are strong suspicions that several current and former members of the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were involved in corruption activities to the benefit of Azerbaijan. These representatives from national parliaments are suspected of receiving caviar, carpets, nights in luxurious hotels, etc. from Azerbaijan authorities in exchange of votes, in January 2013, against a report denouncing the situation of political prisoners in the country. On that day, the President of the PACE, Michele Nicoletti, invited involved MPs to suspend their activities in the PACE while their situation is being investigated on a case-by-case basis.

European Union

On 17 April, the members of the European Parliament adopted two reports in order to strengthen rules notably on the use of the general expenditure allowance. For a monthly amount of 4 000€, MEPs are not required to provide any proof of how the money is spent. The “MEPs Project”, an investigative journalists’ consortium, had shed light on widespread abuses in its use in 2017. According to observers, the changes added will not make the MEPs more accountable of such expenses. The dispositions were judged “wholly inadequate” by the European Union chapter of Transparency International.

On 18 April, following a request formulated by the European Ombudsman in January 2018, the European Central Bank (ECB) published its decision on the compatibility of the participation of the President of the ECB, Mario Draghi, to the meetings twice a year of the G30, an international bankers club based in Washington. The European Ombudsman expressed her disappointment and declared this was a missed opportunity to increase citizens’ trust in the action of the ECB.

On 19 April, following discussions in March, the members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a better protection of journalists in the European Union and for an in-depth, independent and international investigation on the murder of the Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner.

On 23 April, the European Commission submitted a proposal to strengthen whistleblower protection across the EU, following different instances of general interest breaches that were revealed by citizens (Dieselgate, LuxLeaks, etc.). This proposal « ensures EU-wide protection for blowing the whistle on breaches of EU legislation» including notably public procurement, financial services, money laundering and terrorist financing, animal health and welfare, public health, or privacy, data protection and security of network and information systems. In its press release, the Commission encouraged Members States to go beyond this norm and implement general whistleblower protection frameworks based on the same principles.

International Monetary Fund

On 22 April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced the adoption of a new corruption evaluation framework that will be more systematically used in its 189 Members States. This new framework, which targets more generally governance, was adopted by the executive board on 6 April and will allow to regularly assess the nature and seriousness of corruption as of 1 July. The IMF will also look at private actors such as enterprises involved in corruption practices or take part in money laundering. This announcement was welcomed, notably by Transparency International, which calls on the international organization to publish the main information gathered in its evaluations and to foster consultation of civil society.

Civil Society

On 19 April, Transparency International called on G20 countries to speed up action to fight corruption, notably in its monitoring of the commitments taken in following the Panama Papers with regard to beneficial ownership transparency. The report pointed at 11 countries that still have a weak or average legal framework despite the adoption of High-level principles of the G20 in this field in 2014. The United Kingdom, Argentina, France and Italy gained good results with the adoption of strong or very strong legal frameworks for the first one.

Over the week of 16 April, the “Daphne project”, named after the Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia murdered in October 2017 who was denouncing corruption in Malta, published the results of the pursuit of the investigations she had initiated. 18 news media gathered by « Forbidden Stories » partnered to understand who ordered her murder, follow the traces of the Azerbaijan money in Europe, shed light on the trade of the Maltese nationality or the so-called “Golden visas” that for 1 million euros, open the doors of the European Union and allow to escape international sanctions and benefit a favorable tax system.