Anti-corruption campaigns in several European countries have experienced such a severe backslide over the course of the last year that they may breach international standards for fighting bribery and graft cases, according to the latest annual report by the Council of Europe’s 49-member Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
The Council has initiated proceedings against Serbia, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Turkey as a result of GRECO’s findings, which said the “overall unsatisfactory” implementation of anti-corruption measures by parliamentarians, judges, and prosecutors needs to be addressed.
Non-compliance procedures as also underway for Belarus and Switzerland, for which an assessment has already been made, focusing on the demands that corruption cases be treated as serious crimes. The procedure also stresses that insight into “political financing” and a general legal framework for preventing corruption needs to be immediately implemented.
The Council said in its statement that “new legislative initiatives in certain European countries reversed reforms previously undertaken to strengthen the prevention of corruption or started reforms that may result in breaches of the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption standards.”
Although there was overall progress in introducing new measures to fight corruption, the practical implementation by European governments and their judiciaries remained slower than desirable, the Council’s statement said.
The GRECO report also acknowledged the essential role played by journalists to fight corruption and paid tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist who was assassinated in October 2017 after she reported on links between Malta’s online gambling industry and organised crime, the sale of EU passports to Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.
Galizia’s murder “revealed, once again, the need to protect journalists who investigate corruption and to bring the perpetrators of crimes against them to justice,” GRECO said in its report.
Her death was followed four months later by the grisly double murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova, who were shot dead in their home after the former began looking into ties between Slovak government officials and a crime syndicate run by the powerful ‘Ndràngheta Calabrian mafia, which had defrauded the EU of subsidy funds.
The report said that by December 31, 2017, that most European countries had only implemented 44.4% of GRECO’s recommended anti-corruption measures, 25% of which concern asset reporting, restrictions on outside business activities, interactions with lobbyists, and the management of conflicts of interest.