On today’s international anti-corruption day, the Anti-Corruption Intergroup in the European Parliament would like to reflect on the EU’s performance in fighting corruption. Corruption costs the EU economy around 120 billion Euros per year. It is a loss we cannot accept!
We welcome the recent deal on a new mechanism that will condition the disbursement of funds to adherence to the rule of law. We are also glad to see the Commission’s recently published annual rule of law report pointing out weaknesses in the fight against corruption at national level. But there are significant shortcomings from both Member States and Commission in fighting corruption:
- No decisive action on Polish judicial independence: The ECJ ruling on the so-called disciplinary chamber continues to be ignored by Poland. The Commission has not requested any financial penalties.
- ECA warning: In its Annual Activity Report 2019, the European Court of Auditors finds a “pervasive error in expenditure”. According to its President, the control mechanisms of Commission and Member States are simply not reliable enough.
- No decisive action on Czech Prime Minister’s conflict of interests: The Commission’s audit of the situation has been ongoing for one and a half years. No conclusions have been published. The Prime Minister meanwhile has negotiated the MFF and Recovery Fund from which his own Agrofert company would benefit significantly.
- No use of suspension powers under shared management: Under the Common Provisions Regulation, the Commission can suspend funds in case of serious deficiencies in the functioning of control and management systems in Member States. Although funds are being systematically misused in Hungary and other Member States, the Commission only rarely ever makes use of this tool.
- European Public Prosecutor’s Office: In order to manage its expected case workload, EPPO asks Commission and Council for an increase of its 2021 budget to 55.5 mio Euro and more staff positions. In their respective positions for the budget, Commission and Council only foresee 37.5 mio Euro for EPPO and no additional staff positions.
- Checking on final beneficiaries: To date, no overview exists on who are the final beneficiaries of EU funds under shared management, making it impossible to track who eventually benefits from EU funds.
- UN Convention Against Corruption: The Commission has not complied with its obligations under the treaty for twelve years.
In the coming months, the EU is about to disburse unprecedented amounts of money to its Member States. These funds will be crucial for the recovery of EU economies and social systems. To ensure that they reach those in need and don’t fall into the hands of thieves and fraudsters, effective safeguards are more important than ever.
Commission and Member States need to step up their efforts to prevent European funds from being misused and withheld from those who need it most. The Anti-Corruption Intergroup will continue to be a strong voice in the fight against corruption in the EU and counts on the Commission and Member States to do likewise.