03 / 15 / 2020

European Union

On 3 February, Croatia, which on 1 January succeeded Finland in holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, published a list of the companies sponsoring this Croatian presidency. The list includes the INA oil company, owned by the Croatian State and by “the official petrol supplier”, the Hungarian group MOL. There is nothing to prevent countries from seeking financial assistance from businesses to help cover costs associated with the presidency, since these are entirely borne by the country concerned, and this unsupervised activity has been common practice for five years. However, this choice has been highly criticised by NGOs who have denounced it as a mixing of genres and point to the risk of a conflict of interests. At a time when the European Commission wants to make the “Green Deal” its priority, Croatia’s decision to seek sponsorship for its presidency from an oil company reopens the debate on the funding of this exercise, whilst every six months, one of the Twenty-seven has the task of organising and chairing the Councils of European Ministers and other meetings attended by experts from Member States. (Le Monde, 17 February 2020) (Corporate Europe Observatory, 13 February 2020)

World Bank

According to a recent World Bank study, approximately 5% of the funds paid to countries that benefit from its aid disappears into tax havens. Payments of aid to the most dependent countries coincide with a significant increase in transfers to offshore financial centres known for their fiscal opacity, such as Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands and Singapore, the authors of the study explain. Little systematic evidence of this aid diversion exists prior to this study, which focuses on 22 of the poorest countries, mainly within Africa. The publication of this study caused a stir after the British magazine The Economist argued last week that this could be one of the reasons why the World Bank’s chief economist, Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, resigned after fifteen months in the post. The financial institution defended itself against rumours that it had wanted to stifle the study’s publication. (Le Point, 21 February 2020) (Vox, 21 February 2020)


On 5 February, the G20’s anti-corruption group met in Riyad, under the presidency of Saudi Arabia. The Anti-corruption Working Group’s chair, Nassar Abaalkhail, highlighted the importance of continuing to combat corruption and promote integrity and accountability in order to foster growth. (Arab News, 6 February 2020) This meeting took place a few weeks after civil society organisations such as Transparency International and Amnesty International decided to boycott meetings dedicated to civil society under this presidency, denouncing “a process that seeks to give international legitimacy to a state that provides virtually no space for civil society, and where independent civil society voices are not tolerated”. (Transparency International, 13 January 2020) (Forbes, 13 January 2020)