The European Network for Public Ethics, created in June 2022 by the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life to promote public integrity and transparency, met on October 4 and 5 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
In the morning of October 4, members of the Network, which brings together 13 authorities from European Union Member States, attended an international conference on strengthening public integrity and combating undue influence in democracies, opened by Robert Šumi, Chief Commissioner of Slovenia’s Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. He emphasized the central role of integrity in the fight against corruption, and recalled the commitments of his Commission beyond the borders of his country, as well as the need for a common European action.
In his opening speech, Didier Migaud, President of the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life and current President of the Network stressed the importance of the fight against foreign interference. He recalled France’s support for the « Defense of Democracy » package announced by the European Commission, and mentioned the agreement signed between the High Authority and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), under which the OECD will carry out an analysis of France’s institutional framework for regulating foreign influence. He also welcomed the inclusion of the preventive aspect in the proposal for an anti-corruption directive presented by the European Commission on 3 May 2023.
Valerija Jelen Kosi, State Secretary of the Slovenian Ministry of Justice, and Urška Klakočar Zupančič, President of the Slovenian National Assembly, also presented public integrity as a cornerstone of a stable social system based on the rule of law.
Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio, President of Transparency International, Marin Mrčela, President of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), and Julio Bacio Terracino, Head of the OECD’s Public Integrity Division, then exchanged views on strengthening public integrity and combating undue influence. The debates were moderated by GRECO Bureau member Vita Habjan Barborič, who questioned panel members on the definition of integrity, the resurgence of conflicts of interest and cases of corruption during the Covid-19 health crisis, the difficulties encountered in implementing anti-corruption policies, but also on the effectiveness and monitoring of public integrity obligations.
In the afternoon, the European Network for Public Ethics held a technical meeting to discuss the different types of sanctions imposed for breaches of probity within member countries. Slovenia, Slovakia and Greece also presented case studies on the management of conflicts of interest and breaches of integrity.
The following day, at the plenary meeting of the European Network for Public Ethics, which welcomed a new member, the Entity for Transparency of Portugal, the Network secretariat presented the results of the analysis on reporting obligations within member countries. In particular, the scope of public officials who are subject to declarations of assets and/or interests, the frequency of such declarations and the related means of control were discussed. Members then discussed a common minimum standard for reporting obligations and sanctions, to be used as a negotiating tool with European institutions.