Citizens recurrently turn to the European Parliament to comment on various cases of alleged corruption. Furthermore, they request information on how to lodge a complaint and to ask the EU to act in the fight against corruption. Corruption remains a challenge for society as a whole and is one of the serious crimes that can have a cross-border dimension. The European Union has the right to act in the fight against corruption, according to the powers and within the limits established by the treaties.
According to Article 83 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Union may adopt directives which ‘establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the areas of particularly serious crime with a cross-border dimension resulting from the nature or impact of such offences or from a special need to combat them on a common basis’. These areas of crime are, inter alia, money laundering, corruption and organised crime.
EP recommendations to combat corruption
In its resolution of 23 October 2013 on organised crime, corruption and money laundering: recommendations on action and initiatives to be taken (final report), Parliament called, inter alia, on the Commission ‘to develop a consistent global policy against corruption. Parliament recommends that, when drawing up its report on action taken by Member States and EU institutions against corruption, the Commission should propose and include a list of concrete recommendations for each Member State and EU institution, highlighting best practice examples in combating it to foster and encourage Member States and EU institutions to undertake peer-learning exercises in the longer term’.
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), which has undertaken to follow up on the work of the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering (CRIM), organised a hearing on 16 February 2016 on the Fight against organised crime and corruption: stepping up the EU response, in the framework of the preparatory process for the LIBE own-initiative report on fight against corruption and follow-up of the CRIM committee resolution.
Further information is available in procedure file 2015/2110(INI) in the Parliament’s Legislative Observatory.
European Commission action
In February 2014, the European Commission presented the first EU Anti-Corruption Report, which covers the 28 Member States of the European Union. The report provides an EU-wide overview, identifies trends and best practice, and analyses developments in each EU Member State, aiming to support governments, civil society and other stakeholders in preventing and combating corruption.
The follow-up of this report is the basis for the Commission’s work and dialogue with Member States to prevent and fight corruption in the European Union. The report consists of a general chapter summarising the main findings and 28 country chapters. Further information is available in the press release of 3 February 2014 and in the webpage of the European Commission dedicated to corruption.
In its reply of 3 August 2015 to a parliamentary question on corruption in the EU, the Commission laid out a number of legislative initiatives at EU level which have been introduced in recent years to combat corruption. Examples include the Commission’s proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (on-going legislative procedure, reference 2013/0255(APP) of the EP Legislative Observatory), the directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime (Directive 2014/42/EU), the Fourth Money Laundering Directive (Directive (EU) 2015/849), the Public Procurement Directives and the directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups (Directive 2014/95/EU).
Fraud against the EU budget
On 11 March 2015 the Parliament adopted a resolution on the Annual Report 2013 on the Protection of the EU’s Financial Interests – Fight against fraud in which it also ‘underlines its concerns as regards the persisting threats to the EU budget, which stem from both failures to comply with the rules (non-fraudulent irregularities) and purposeful wrongdoings and criminal offences (i.e. fraud); insists on enhanced cooperation between the Member States and the Commission with a view to securing relevant and adequate measures and means for avoiding and rectifying non-fraudulent irregularities and combatting fraud’.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within the European institutions, and develops anti-fraud policy for the European Commission. OLAF is the only EU body mandated to detect, investigate and stop fraud with EU funds. It can be contacted anonymously to report cases of fraud.
Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification
In the framework of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification for Bulgaria and Romania, the European Commission regularly reports on advancement with judicial reform and the fight against corruption in these countries. In its progress reports, the Commission invites Bulgaria and Romania to take action in different areas, in order to develop the effective administrative and judicial systems as EU Member States.
More details are also available in the study ‘Organised Crime and Corruption: Cost of Non-Europe Report’ published by the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) on 23 March 2016.
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