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International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

In July, the European Parliament adopted resolutions aimed at increasing transparency within the institution and improving the fight against corruption. The European Ombudsman is continuing her inquiries in the various agencies and institutions of the Union. The European Commission expressed its concerns about corruption and the pressure exerted on the media and the justice system in certain Member States of the Union, through the publication of its annual report on the rule of law.

Elsewhere in the world, Belarus, Gabon and South Africa have convicted former senior representatives of their countries for breaches of integrity, while Iraq officially announced the launch of an anti-corruption program.

EUROPEAN UNION (EU)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

On July 1st, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament approved wider use of roll-call voting to promote greater transparency of votes in Parliament. This practice makes it possible to know how each deputy has voted, but will only apply to the current remote voting procedure put in place in the context of the pandemic. Therefore, it will not continue automatically after the pandemic has ended. (Contexte, July 5th 2021)

On July 7th, the European Parliament adopted a resolution welcoming the EU’s global human rights sanctions regime and called for corruption to be included as a punishable offence. This global regime, adopted in 2020, makes it possible to punish natural or legal persons, including State entities, that have violated human rights. The sanctions range from a ban on entry to the freezing of assets in the EU. Parliament called on the Commission to present a legislative proposal to extend the scope of the EU’s global sanctions regime to corruption. (Parlement européen, 7 juillet 2021, European Parliament, July 7th 2021)

The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee adopted a non-binding report on July 14th calling on the European Commission to propose a European ethics body. The measure was opposed by the European People’s Party (EPP) which voted against the text. This new independent body could open investigations into possible conflicts of interest involving Commissioners, MEPs and staff of the participating institutions. (Parlement européen, 14 juillet 2021, European Parliament, July 14th 2021)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

The European Commission published on July 20st its annual report on the rule of law in the European Union, highlighting many positive developments in the field of justice, in particular for Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg. However, the report stresses that the public health crisis has also put pressure on journalists and the balance of power in many countries. While countries such as Austria and Bulgaria are implicated in the report, the Commission qualifies the breaches as systemic in Poland and Hungary. Hungary is said to be undermining the independence of the judiciary and the media and experiencing instances of corruption in public procurements. According to the report, Poland is seeking to curtail the independence of the judiciary and providing financial aid to pro-government media. (Le Figaro, July 20st 2021, European Commission, July 20st 2021)

The European Commission also published on July 20st its annual report on the application of the code of conduct for Commissioners. The report points out that, during the year 2020, 51 decisions were adopted authorising former members to take up new functions. Of these decisions, 23% were for academic positions, 17% for jobs in NGOs, 16% in think tanks, 10% in the private sector and 8% in consultancy roles. In most cases, these compatibility decisions were approved with reservations or restrictions. (EU Law Live, 23 July 2021, Contexte, July 26st 2021)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

Emily O’Reilly asked the European Commission to provide her with details on the recording of exchanges, SMS and instant messages between her officials and stakeholders, before November 15th 2021. Such correspondence, which has been on the rise in recent years, cannot be the subject of a request for access to documents because the applicable regulation of 2001 distinguishes according to the medium and not the content, what regrets the Ombudsman who has been asking for an examination of this regulation for several years. (European Ombudsman, July 2nd 2021, Contexte, July 6th 2021)

In the context of the vast inquiry carried out on the administrations of the European Union, the European Ombudsman concluded that the European Defence Agency (EDA) should have prohibited the appointment of its former Chief Executive, Jorge Domecq, as lobbyist at Airbus. Emily O’Reilly recommends that, in the future, the agency ban its leaders from certain positions after the end of their term, when it seems necessary and for a period of two years. (European Ombudsman, July 15th 2021, Contexte, July 16th 2021)

 

GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

BELARUS

Viktor Babaryko, the main opponent of President Alexander Lukashenko, was sentenced Tuesday, July 6th, to 14 years in prison for corruption. He was convicted of receiving bribes and laundering money while at the head of Belgazprombank, a Belarusian subsidiary of a Russian bank belonging to the Gazprom group. This conviction comes against the backdrop of prosecutions against opponents, NGOs and journalists in Belarus. (Le Monde, July 6th 2021, Swissinfo, July 6th 2021)

BULGARIA

Since the departure of the former Prime Minister, Boïko Borissov, revelations about a system of widespread corruption in Bulgaria are proliferating. The director of the Public Financial Inspection Agency, Georgi Nachev, and other senior Bulgarian officials have not reported for work since May 11th, when the transition government took office. Due to the emergence of new anti-system and anti-corruption parties, the government of the outgoing Prime Minister had to cede power for the first time since 2014. (Libération, July 3rd 2021, The Jordan Times, July 8th 2021)

VATICAN

On Saturday, July 3rd, the Vatican announced it was referring to criminal court 10 people, including Angelo Becciu, involved in the shady financing of a luxury building in London through Italian businessmen. Cardinal Becciu, who was close to the Pope, will appear in court from July 27th and will be prosecuted for embezzlement, abuse of power and subordination of witness in this case. (Le Monde, July 4th 2021, France 24, July 27th 2021)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

CANADA

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for more information about contracts between Liberal MPs and a company run by a long-time friend of the Prime Minister. The request was made following a complaint filed by a Conservative MP alleging that Justin Trudeau might have unduly advanced the financial interests of this friend. The Prime Minister has 30 days to respond, after which Mario Dion will decide whether or not to launch a formal investigation. (CBC, July 14th 2021)

UNITED STATES

An independent and non-partisan watchdog, The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), published a report on July 8th in which the NGO proposes, among other recommendations, to create a code of conduct for Supreme Court judges. The proposal comes in a context where Amy Coney Barrett, a justice on the court, is accused of not having recused herself from a case that could amount to a conflict of interest. According to the report, such a code would strengthen the legitimacy of the country’s highest court while improving the readability and transparency of its decision-making process, which is criticised for its opacity. (Huffpost, July 9th 2021)

Hunter Biden, the son of the President of the United States, is at the heart of a controversy over his new career as an artist and painter. On Friday, July 24th, the White House gave assurances that it was taking all necessary ethical precautions in relation to the exhibition and sale of paintings by President Joe Biden’s youngest son. In order to avoid potential conflicts of interest in the sale of these paintings, no information on buyers or potential buyers will be provided to Hunter Biden or the administration. The fear is that business leaders might invest large sums in the paintings to try to influence the president. (The Washington Post, July 8th 2021, Ouest France, July 24th 2021)

HAITI

A decree dated July 5th issued by the late President of the Republic of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, granted full and complete discharge to the former Prime Ministers and ministers who served the Republic between February 7th 1991 and February 7th 2017 and received a favourable ruling from the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation. The opposition denounced the decree as a flagrant violation of the Constitution, the principle of the separation of powers and an attempt to trivialise corruption in the country. (Gazette Haiti, July 5th 2021, Newswep, July 5th 2021)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

SOUTH AFRICA

The former president, Jacob Zuma, was jailed Thursday July 8th as a result of his conviction at the end of June for having repeatedly refused to testify before a commission investigating corruption under his presidency. His incarceration has triggered numerous outbreaks of violence throughout the country. Subsequently, the South African judiciary agreed on Tuesday, July 20st, to postpone for three weeks the trial of the former president who is being prosecuted for corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering. (La Tribune, July 20st 2021, BBC, July 11th 2021)

GABON

The former Minister of the Economy was tried on July 2nd by the Special Criminal Court and was sentenced to six years in prison (five of which were suspended) for embezzlement of public funds in the amount of one billion CFA francs. He was arrested in 2019 and released on bail as part of an anti-corruption operation that indicted him for numerous crimes. (Gabon Review, July 4th 2021)

KENYA

The NGO Human Rights Watch published on July 20th 2021 a report titled, « We are all vulnerable here: The Kenyan cash transfer program in response to the pandemic marred by irregularities ”, which revealed that only a small portion of vulnerable families in Nairobi had benefited from the programme, marred by a lack of transparency and suspicions of nepotism according to the NGO. The association deplored that the programme does not clearly state its eligibility criteria, how beneficiaries are identified, or why thousands of households meeting the criteria are still excluded. (Human Rights Watch, July 20st 2021)

International Newsletter of the HATVP – July 2021

AFGHANISTAN

An independent Congressional commission report on Afghanistan puts US spending on conflict and reconstruction in the country at $837 billion. Corruption is at an all-time high and is said to have been fuelled in part by the billions injected by the United States into the reconstruction of Afghanistan, which only partially reached their targets. (TV5 Monde, July 3rd 2021, Bloomberg, July 29th 2021)

IRAQ

Iraq just adopted its national anti-corruption strategy, proposed by the Public Integrity Commission, and has officially launched a vast anti-corruption campaign that began last August. This plan, which is intended to run from 2021 to 2024, is a source of hope in a country known to be one of the most corrupt in the world according to data from the NGO Transparency International. (La diplomatie, July 12th 2021)

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