International newsletter of the HATVP – February-March 2023
February saw the adoption by the European Parliament of resolutions calling for the strengthening of ethical rules and for the creation of a dedicated body within the European institutions.
In March, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) issued a report recognising Ukraine’s progress in preventing corruption of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors and concluding that there was a satisfactory level of compliance with the recommendations made in the fourth round evaluation report.
At the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on 14 February, European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourová announced that a proposal on a future inter-institutional ethics body would be unveiled soon. The future body would aim to ensure clear and common standards of integrity and independence of the European institutions, similar control mechanisms in all institutions, while respecting the institutional balance established by the Treaties. (European Commission, 14 February 2023)
During the European Parliament’s plenary session on 16 February, MEPs adopted two resolutions listing the institution’s demands on what the future European ethics body should be and calling for the follow-up of measures to strengthen the institution’s transparency rules following the Qatargate episode. (Contexte, 17 February 2023)
In a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 February, the Chair of the Budgetary Control Committee called for the creation of a European equivalent to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in the United States. In the context of the Qatargate episode, the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP) called for a financial pre-screening of NGOs before they were included in the EU transparency register. (Euractiv, 14 February 2023)
The European Parliament voted a resolution on the evaluation of the Commission’s 2022 report on the rule of law and respect for the Union’s values. MEPs call for the scope of the analysis to be broadened to cover all EU values, for the report’s conclusions to be linked to the activation of tools to protect EU values and the EU budget, and for recognition of a proven setback in some countries. MEPs noted worrying trends in Greece, Spain and Malta, which would be the subject of a resolution at the 17–20 April plenary session. (Parliament, 30 March 2023)
The European Ombudsman has asked the Commission to provide a list of all business trips of senior EU officials funded by third parties since 2021. The Ombudsman points out that some of the trips of the Director General of DG MOVE were financed by Qatar between 2015 and 2021, at a time when DG MOVE was involved in the negotiations of the EU-Qatar Air Transport Agreement. He has since resigned from his position. The Ombudsman also calls for clarification of the rules on conflicts of interest when business travel involves contributions from third parties. (European Ombudsman, 6 March 2023; Contexte, 30 March 2023)
The Ombudsman sent several questions to the European Parliament to clarify the proposals made by its President, Roberta Metsola, on 8 February. In particular, she asked about the powers of initiative and the independence of the committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the MEPs’ code of conduct. The Ombudsman asked whether there were any measures in place to deal with non-compliance with the suggested cooling off period for former MEPs. She stressed the importance of publicising the next steps in the reform process. (European Ombudsman, 21 March 2023)
The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is calling for further measures to prevent corruption in central government and the police in Ireland. In its fifth evaluation report, GRECO underlines the central role of the Civil Service Standards Commission (SIPO) in preventing corruption, but calls for the Commission to be given more resources and powers to oversee the implementation of integrity standards. Integrity checks should also be conducted before individuals are appointed to senior executive positions, according to GRECO. (Council of Europe, 16 February 2023)
GRECO has published its evaluation report on Ukraine’s implementation of the fourth round recommendations. Of the 31 recommendations, Ukraine has implemented 15 recommendations satisfactorily, nine recommendations partially and seven recommendations have not been implemented. The Council of Europe concludes that the current level of compliance with the recommendations is no longer “globally unsatisfactory”, in contrast to the previous report of April 2022, and welcomes the progress made in preventing corruption of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors. Ukraine should submit a report on the measures taken to implement the outstanding recommendations by 31 March 2024. (Council of Europe, 24 March 2023)
The OECD Working Group on Bribery considers that Denmark does not give sufficient priority to the prevention and prosecution of foreign bribery. Since 2000, only one Danish company has been convicted of foreign bribery, and no conviction has ever been made against an individual in Denmark. (OECD, 16 March 2023)
According to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2022, published on 31 January 2023 by the NGO Transparency International, several Asian countries are in decline. The NGO points out that grand corruption remains prevalent in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region and that the overall situation has not improved, with an average score of 45 out of 100 for the fourth consecutive year. Afghanistan, Cambodia, Burma and North Korea are among the most corrupt countries, according to the NGO. (News Press Agency, 9 February 2023)
The second Summit for Democracy was held on 29 March 2023, where more than 70 governments approved a declaration aimed at strengthening democratic resilience by, among other things, affirming their commitment to prevent and combat corruption. (US Department of State, 29 March 2023)
The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, welcomed on Tuesday 21 February Kyiv’s determination to fight corruption in Ukraine, following a ministerial reshuffle linked to corruption suspicions. The IMF head stressed that the war was a breeding ground for corruption but that the Ukrainian authorities were willing to work with the international organisation. (La libre, 21 February 2023)