News / Europe

Anti-Corruption Group Finds EU Vulnerable to Fraud

A European flag reflects in a building of the EU headquarters in Brussels. (File)
A European flag reflects in a building of the EU headquarters in Brussels. (File)
The global accountability group Transparency International says the European Union and its institutions are so complex and fragmented that it leaves them open to corruption and fraud.

The shortcoming were outlined in a complex report on the EU’s components released in late April.

“Across the board in the system, we identified a number of things, including opaque EU decision making, [and] a lack of transparency in EU lobbying,” said Mark Perera, the study’s lead researcher.

“We also see there needs to be improvement in how conflicts of interest are managed for senior EU decision makers,” he said. “We also see there is weak protection for internal EU whistleblowers within the institutions - what we consider to be a key safeguard in identifying suspected corruption. And we also see that there are weak sanctions for corrupt companies.”

The European Union describes itself as a political and economic partnership between its 28 member nations.

Forged in its current form in 1993, the EU is based in Brussels, but various parts such as the European Parliament and the EU Court of Justice are in other locations, designed to spread activities among its member states.

Transparency International said in many nations it has studied that one frequent avenue for corruption is lobbying - outside interests influencing executive and legislative decision-makers. And, it said, the EU’s current regulations controlling how lobbyists interact with its leaders and lawmakers are far too weak. The EU has a lobby register which operates on a voluntary basis, the Wall Street Journal reported.

One analyst who agreed with the study’s call for strong EU lobbying controls is Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“[It’s] absolutely imperative for an institution like the EU, which is responsible for a lot of regulations for the entire continent of Europe,” Kirkegaard said. “And not having an idea about the power of lobbying, and the access of lobbyists to policy makers in that situation, I think should be unacceptable in any democratic nation.”

When it comes to ensuring senior figures comply with ethics rules, the European Union’s Institutions are largely self-regulated. Perera said that is a bad idea.

“Ethics committees are normally filled with former or current members of those institutions,” he said. “So we feel they lack independence, and very often, they lack teeth as well."

“And, in the past month, we’ve seen that a number of MEPs - Members of the European Parliament - were found to have broken the rules in terms of failing to declare sponsored [expenses paid] trips to Azerbaijan and China,” he said. “However they faced no disciplinary sanctions. So, we feel there needs to be improvements in certain areas to address this complacency.”

Many countries’ leaders and lawmakers are required by law to fully disclose their financial holdings, interests, and assets - to help assure the citizenry that decisions are not made in conflict with the public’s interests.  

Perara said this as yet another problem area for the EU.

“We find that the European Parliament, and the European Commission,” he said, “have an obligation to declare their financial interests. However, we found that there was no evidence that suggests that the financial information in these [personal asset] declarations is being systematically and comprehensively verified.”

Kirkegaard said it appears that the EU’s built-in inertia would rather maintain the status quo.

”It is true that if you really want to get to the bottom of this, you would have to revise and reform the so-called EU Treaty, which is an enormously cumbersome political process,” he said.

Recent polls show that some 70 percent of the EU’s residents believe its Institutions are vulnerable to corruption.

“If the new EU leadership is serious about arresting the decline in trust and confidence, corruption risks need to be dealt with before they become corruption scandals., said Carl Dolan, director of Transparency’s EU office.

But a spokesman for the European Commission said the institution maintains honesty and transparency.

"The risk of wrongdoing or of corruption and fraud can never be entirely eliminated," spokesman Antonio Gravili told The Associated Press. "But the report clearly recognizes that the Commission has taken a comprehensive set of measures intended to reduce this risk to a minimum, and that a strong framework is in place."
A spokeswoman for the EU Parliament, Marjory van den Broeke, told the New York Times. “Compared to other parliaments, it’s a very transparent parliament.”

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid