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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.