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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid