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Brussels, 15 February 2012
Frequently Asked Questions: How corruption is tackled at EU level
How far back do the EU anti-corruption policies reach?
Corruption has been a focal subject in the EU for more than 15 years now. The EU defined active and passive corruption in its legal instruments as far back as 1996 and 1997, before wider Council of Europe and UN instruments had seen the light. In 2003, specific rules on combating corruption in the private sector were also adopted at EU level. Before 2011, two strategic papers on the EU policy against corruption were issued by the European Commission in 1997 and 2003, identifying priority anti-corruption measures in a number of related policy areas.
What are the remaining concerns?
In spite of the legal and policy initiatives taken so far, the actual results in tackling corruption across the EU remain rather unsatisfactory overall. This is illustrated by perception surveys such as the Eurobarometer on the attitudes of Europeans towards corruption, studies on the costs and effects of corruption, implementation reports on EU legislation and in the findings of monitoring instruments such as the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the OECD Working Group on Bribery and the review mechanism on the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption.
The current challenges faced in Europe and beyond, related to the repercussions of the financial crisis, including on the sustainability of public debts, make an even stronger case for reinforced guarantees for the integrity and transparency of public expenditure. The economic costs of corruption in the EU were estimated by a study conducted for the Commission to amount to approximately 120 billion Euros a year (the equivalent of 1% of the EU GDP). Corruption in the area of public procurement is a clear barrier to competition in the internal market. Studies have shown that about 20 to 25% of the public contracts’ value is lost to corruption. In the healthcare sector, research has shown that approximately 56 billion Euros are lost annually to fraud and corruption in the EU.
The most recent Eurobarometer on corruption released on 15 February 2012 shows that a high proportion of EU citizens (74%) continue to see corruption as a major problem in their country. Moreover, almost half of Europeans (47%) believe that the level of corruption in their country increased over the past three years.
How is the Commission tackling the current challenges?
In June last year, the Commission adopted a new anti-corruption strategic initiative (see IP/11/678 and MEMO/11/376), starting from the premise that a stronger policy is needed at EU level to ensure better tangible results against corruption.
In the Communication on Fighting Corruption in the EU of 6 June 2011, the Commission clearly stated that the main obstacle in successfully fighting corruption is the lack of, or at least an insufficient political commitment to tackle corruption. The necessary legislation and anti-corruption policies are largely there at international, EU and national level. However, more effective enforcement of those laws and policies is needed.
What does the Commission's new strategy do?
Through the anti-corruption initiative, an EU anti-corruption reporting mechanism for the periodic assessment of Member States' efforts to tackle corruption ('EU Anti-Corruption Report', see Commission Decision C(2011)3673) was set up. Starting in 2013, every two years the Commission will release a 'diagnosis' of corruption-related problems in the EU, pointing to critical issues and proposing solutions to help intensify anti-corruption measures and reinforce mutual trust among Member States. This is the first such mechanism in the EU. Based on the findings of the first reports, further EU actions may be considered.
Corruption raises many problems in terms of the identification of causes, the precise measurement of impacts and, most importantly, the effectiveness of counteracting measures. Several evaluation instruments which look into states' performance in the fight corruption already exist in Europe and on a global level. And yet corruption continues to thrive as a profitable 'business' in many places in the EU. The EU Anti-Corruption Report will not reinvent the wheel. The new report will build on existing knowledge in terms of evaluation of anti-corruption policies and add innovative measurement and assessment instruments to bring about real change. The assessment and recommendations of the EU Anti-Corruption Report should serve everyone (politicians, the general public, the media, and practitioners) as a useful tool, one they can use to push for results where others have failed.
Each report will focus on a number of cross-cutting issues of particular relevance to the EU level, as well as selected issues specific to each Member State which will be highlighted in country analyses. The report will thus comprise both cross-cutting and country specific recommendations. While the recommendations will not be legally binding for EU Member States, their follow-up will be monitored in subsequent reports.
How is the work on the EU Anti-Corruption Report proceeding?
The Commission set up, at the end of 2011, a group of experts on corruption that advises on: establishing indicators; assessing Member States' performance; identifying best practices; identifying EU trends; making recommendations; proposing new EU measures, where appropriate. The selected experts (http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/policies/crime/List_of_selected_experts-Group_of_Experts_on_corruption.pdf) come from a wide variety of backgrounds (public and private sector, civil society, international organisations, law enforcement, judiciary, prevention services, research, etc). They do not represent Member States or their employer/organisation, but act in a personal capacity.
The Commission will also set up a network of research correspondents that will complement the work of the expert group, by collecting and processing information from each Member State. It will in fact be a network of contact points from each Member State including representatives of civil society, academia and researchers.
The EU Anti-Corruption Report will be managed by the Commission who will streamline information from a wide variety of sources, such as existing evaluation mechanisms, independent experts and researchers (as mentioned above), civil society, specialised networks, EU institutions, services and agencies, Commission studies, surveys (e.g. the Eurobarometer on corruption), other stakeholders.
What else is being done?
Apart from the EU Anti-Corruption Report, the Commission is promoting a cross-cutting anti-corruption approach in a range of internal and external policy fields. To name just a few:
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