As part of an initial reform of its ethical rules in the wake of the Qatargate scandal, the European Parliament is banning former MEPs from lobbying the institution for six months after leaving office. Interest representatives and NGOs will also need to register with the European Union’s transparency register before they can take part as invited guests or co-host events at the European Parliament.
Another noteworthy development in May is the European Commission’s proposal for a directive to combat corruption, which includes efforts to reinforce prevention.
On 3 May, the European Commission unveiled an « anti-corruption » package aimed at harmonising regulations in this area across the 27 Member States. The key elements of the proposals include:
- A communication announcing an EU network against corruption, bringing together law enforcement, public authorities, practitioners and civil society to develop best practices and practical guidance.
- A new Directive on combatting corruption, with measures placing strong focus on prevention and the creation of one legal act for all corruption offences and sanctions.
- An expansion of Common Foreign and Security Policy sanctions to cover serious acts of corruption.
The proposed Directive on combatting corruption will have to be negotiated and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can become EU law. The proposed new framework of Common Foreign and Security Policy sanctions will have to be discussed and adopted by the Council. (European Commission, 3 May 2023)
On 17 April, the Bureau of the European Parliament decided to ban former MEPs from lobbying the institution for six months after leaving office. This decision comes in response to the Qatargate scandal, in which the Vice-President of the European Parliament and a former MEP are suspected of illegally influencing voting at the institution in favour of Qatar. This decision became effective on 1 May. Interest representatives and NGOs will also need to register with the European Union’s transparency register before they can take part as invited guests or co-host events at the European Parliament(Contexte, 1 May 2023); Euractiv, 25 May 2023).
On 25 April, the European Ombudsman published her annual report. She opened 348 inquiries in 2022, more than half of which concerned the Commission. Inquiries concern the control of mobility for Commission staff between the public and private sectors, staff interactions with lobbyists, the time taken to fulfil requests for access to documents, the control of European funds and the use of subcontractors. The report gives special focus to ethics and transparency. (European Ombudsman, 25 April 2023)
On 5 April, the European Network for Public Ethics, which was launched in June 2022 at the initiative of the French High Authority for Transparency in Public Life and chaired by the High Authority, met for the third time to discuss the European Commission’s proposed anti-corruption Directive. The Network’s members agreed on the need for the European Commission to include preventive measures in its proposal. The next Network meeting will take place on 4-5 October 2023 in Slovenia. (HATVP, 12 April 2023)
Didier Migaud, Chairman of the French High Authority for Transparency in Public Life, would like to see a policy for transparency in European public life based on consultation with the Member States. Striking a balance between transparency, control and effectiveness is a prerequisite for creating an effective ethics policy for public decision-makers. (Confrontation Europe, 18 April 2023)
The OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum took place on 24 – 25 May to discuss the following theme: « Action to Impact: Working together to strengthen integrity and fight corruption », which was attended by several international delegations. The Forum emphasised the need for the public and private sectors to stand firm and work together in the fight against global corruption. (OECD, 25 May 2023)
The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) regrets Switzerland’s lack of progress in implementing its recommendations for preventing corruption among members of parliament and judges, according to a report published on 11 May 2023. Swiss MPs do not have a dedicated body to advise on issues relating to integrity and do not receive training in this area. Their declarations of interest still do not contain quantitative data or information on their liabilities. With respect to judges and prosecutors, there are no possible sanctions other than removal from office to punish serious breaches of official duties. Finally, GRECO regrets that judges pay part of their salary to political parties. (GRECO, 11 May 2023)
The Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) held its 65th plenary meeting from 24 to 26 May 2023, attended by 200 experts from some 50 jurisdictions and international organisations. A high-level conference was held in Warsaw, Poland, on 25 April 2023, which led to the adoption of the High-Level Declaration and strategic priorities (2023-2027). Ministers from the member States of the MONEYVAL Committee have committed to improve the effectiveness of their regimes to prevent and combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation. MONEYVAL evaluations have shown an overall positive performance of its members concerning international cooperation and information exchanges. (Council of Europe, 25 April 2023)
On 25 May, Brazil’s centre-right former President Fernando Collor de Mello (1990-1992) was found guilty of corruption and money laundering by Brazil’s Supreme Court as part of the « Car Wash » scandal. He is accused of receiving 20 million reais (about €3.8 million) in bribes when he was a senator from 2010 to 2014 to facilitate the signing of contracts between a construction company and a subsidiary of public oil company Petrobras. (Le Figaro, 26 May 2023)
At the end of March, China launched an anti-corruption campaign with a new series of inspections targeting 30 state-owned enterprises, including five financial institutions. The drive to clean up the financial sector comes against a backdrop of increasing cases of corruption among Chinese business leaders and coincides with the introduction of a wide-ranging reform of financial oversight. (Les Echos, 17 April 2023)
On 21 April, the former chairman of Aoki Holdings was given a 30-month suspended prison sentence for paying bribes to secure his company’s status as an official partner of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Other CEOs of major companies are also being prosecuted for similar offences. (France Info, 21 April 2023)