European citizens’ initiative: give new EU Member States a fixed deadline to reform their judicial systems, and condition access to funds on rule of law for all members.
The European citizens’ initiative "Stop corruption in the EU" proposes a fixed time frame for newly acceded countries to carry out reforms in their judicial systems. It also calls for compliance with the rule of law as a condition for every Member State to receive EU funds.
We, the initiators of "Stop corruption in the EU", are convinced that the fraud and misuse of European funds affect all countries, as well as all citizens who, as taxpayers, contribute to the EU budget. We therefore propose changes to the European legislation, which will help enforce the rule of law and curb corruption.
Corruption is a phenomenon that can never be completely eradicated, but its damage can be mitigated and limited through the effective enforcement of the rule of law.
According to a Eurobarometer survey, 71.6% of Europeans believe that fraud with EU funds is a common occurrence, and over 80% support and recognise the importance of the main principles of the rule of law.
Many pan-European institutions and mechanisms are involved in managing the risk of fraud with European funds, but only the national administrations in the individual Member States can simultaneously participate in all four steps of the process - prevention, detection, investigation and sanctions.
We believe that the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office will give the EU additional rights to investigate and sanction such violations, but it will not undo or diminish the essential role of national authorities in combating corruption, enforcing and upholding the rule of law.
In respect to all of the above, we, the initiators of the "Stop corruption in the EU" ECI, have set the following two objectives:
1. The introduction of a strict time frame for newly acceded countries to carry out reforms in their judicial systems
The last three rounds of EU enlargement resulted in the joining of 13 new Member States - Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 2004, Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, and Croatia in 2013.
New Member States can benefit from pre-accession and cohesion funds, as well as from the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP).
Unlike the countries that joined in 2004 and Croatia in 2013, the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 was linked to the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (CVM), as the two countries had not yet made sufficient progress on judicial reform, corruption and (for Bulgaria) organised crime.
At the time of registration of our initiative in September of last year, Bulgaria and Romania had been members of the EU for more than 12 years. Subsequently, in November 2019, the European Commission decided that CVM monitoring can be lifted for Bulgaria (voted in the EP, but not in the EU Council), but will continue to be applied in Romania.
To date, Bulgaria has not yet completed the reform of its prosecution system, fraud with EU funds is very common, and only 3 out of the 40 observed cases of high-level corruption investigations between 2014-2019 have ended with convictions.
Although the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification sets precise and clear objectives, it does not set deadlines for their implementation (overall duration of the CVM) or consequences for failing to achieve them.
Considering the experience of Bulgaria and Romania, and in view of further EU enlargement, we propose introducing a strict 10-year period during which the newly acceded countries have to carry out reforms in their judicial systems and ensure an effective fight against corruption.
2. Linking rule of law to the receipt of EU funds by individual Member States
Shortcomings in the application of the rule of law affect not only the ability to reduce fraud with EU funds and corruption, but also the independent functioning of the main authorities, the quality of the business environment and economic development, media independence, transparency in public finances and many other areas, which are of fundamental importance to all European citizens.
The current European Commission has announced intentions to monitor the rule of law in all EU Member States. In April 2019, the European Parliament voted on a directive that links the receipt of EU funds to the rule of law. It has now been 14 months of waiting for a decision from the Council of the European Union regarding this directive.
Our citizens' initiative proposes to set clear criteria and benchmarks related to the rule of law, for accurate reporting of the results; and to introduce the option to impose a moratorium (temporary suspension) on disbursal of European funds to countries in breach of these criteria until the irregularities are eliminated.
The significant increase of grants and interest-free loans envisioned in the next seven-year budget of the European Union, and the planned loan of 750 billion euros to cover them, will be repaid by all European citizens. This further reinforces the urgent need for stricter anti-fraud measures and an adequate mechanism to ensure the rule of law in all Member States.
Our European citizens’ initiative sincerely thanks everyone who has gotten in touch and has supported us so far. We have redirected all citizens who wanted to report specific cases of corruption to the responsible authorities. We welcome any civic activity, advice, and willingness to help in relation to the initiative.
Veneta Magistrelli is in charge of the “Stop corruption in the EU” initiative. Her academic and professional background are related to Business Administration (BA University of Hertfordshire; MBA, Leadership and sustainability), management and development of small and medium enterprises. After spending 15 years in Asia, seven years ago she returned to Europe and is now based in Brussels, where her continuous interest in Business and Society models led her to active support of various political and citizens’ causes.
You can get in touch with her on the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum, or by clicking here!
You can also visit the initiative's Facebook page or write her an email.
- Justice and fundamental rights
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