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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid