Council of Europe warns against reversal of progress in fight against corruption

Strasbourg/03.05.18/Turan: New legislative initiatives in certain European countries in 2017 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 in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors, their practical implementation remained slower than desirable.

These are some of the key concerns expressed by the Group of States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (GRECO) in its annual report, published today. GRECO also acknowledges the essential role played by journalists to fight corruption and pays tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia. Her murder revealed once again the need to protect journalists who investigate corruption and to bring the perpetrators of crimes against them to justice.

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said: "Corrupt practices both at national and international level, as we have witnessed within the Council of Europe´s Parliamentary Assembly, constitute a major threat to our institutions and to democracy itself. It is crucial that national authorities and international bodies take a clear stance against corruption and swiftly implement anti-corruption measures. We must ensure full compliance with GRECO´s recommendations in law and practice".

GRECO"s President, Marin Mrčela, said: "In 2017 there were numerous corruption allegations in many countries and institutions. Progress against corruption cannot be taken for granted. It requires staying alert; because there is always a risk of regression. Political leaders should show a strong leadership against corruption. MPs, judges and prosecutors should lead by example, and citizens should strongly demand from their representatives that they act not only respecting the law, but also according to the highest ethical standards".

The report contains an assessment of the level of compliance by GRECO"s member states with its recommendations in respect of parliamentarians, judge and prosecutors.

The report concludes that by 31 December 2017 states evaluated so far had not implemented almost one third of GRECO"s recommendations issued in respect of MPs (30%), whilst they had only partially implemented 44.4%. They had only fully implemented one out four (25.4%). These recommendations concerned mainly asset reporting, restrictions on outside business activities, transparency of interactions with lobbyists and the management of conflicts of interest.

The level of compliance was higher in respect of judges: countries evaluated had fully implemented almost half of GRECO"s recommendations (42.6%), but one third remained only partly implemented (36%) and close to one out of five, not implemented (21%). Many of these recommendations referred to recruitment, transfer or promotion procedures, as well as to the need for codes of conduct for judges, which on third of the countries evaluated were yet to adopt.

Countries performed much better in respect of measures concerning prosecutors: states complied with 54% of the recommendations and partially with 32%. Only 14% had not been implemented.

During 2017 GRECO adopted six evaluation reports. Two of them were prepared as part of GRECO"s 5th evaluation round in which it has started to monitor corruption prevention in respect of top executive functions of government and law enforcement agencies. GRECO also adopted 40 compliance reports, and assessments on the integrity frameworks of the Council of Europe"s Parliamentary Assembly and the Conference of INGOs.

To pay tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the report features an article by her sons Mathew, Andrew and Paul: "Journalists are defenceless while corruption is armed".

According to the report of GRECO:

- Azerbaijan is among the three countries to which GRECO issued the highest number of recommendations. Armenia is the country to which GRECO issued a higher number of recommendations (24), followed by Slovenia (21), Azerbaijan (21), Bulgaria (19), Estonia (19), "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (19), Belgium (19), Luxembourg (18), Latvia (16), Poland (16) and the Slovak Republic (16).

- Azerbaijan is among the four countries with a highest number of non-implemented recommendations. Belgium is the country with the highest number of non-implemented recommendations (12), followed by Azerbaijan (6), Luxembourg (6), "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (6), Croatia (5), Ireland (5), Latvia (5), Poland (5), France (4) and Spain (4).

- Azerbaijan is among the twelve countries (Albania, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia") which have not yet fully complied with any of GRECO´s recommendations in respect of prevention of corruption among parliamentarians. -0-

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