How to fight corruption and uphold the rule of law

This report from UK think tank the Centre for European Reform looks at the limited impact of the EU’s efforts to tackle corruption so far.

Corruption is a serious problem for Europe. It reduces the EU’s GDP somewhere between the staggering range of €120-€990 billion each year. Corruption makes investing in Europe less attractive and weakens the rule of law by eroding citizens’ trust in their governing institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse – governments have not been as transparent as they should have about their public spending, and the ensuing economic crisis is poisoning national politics. Corruption will be a quandary for Europe’s response to the pandemic: the sheer size of the EU’s €1.8 trillion recovery fund will make it vulnerable to corruption, political manipulation and fraud. The EU needs to improve its lines of defence to make sure the fund does not fall into the pockets of corrupt politicians, in turn worsening the EU’s pressing problem with democratic backsliding within the bloc.

That is the main focus of this new policy brief by Camino Mortera-Martínez for the Centre for European Reform in partnership with the Open Society Policy Institute, ‘How to fight corruption and uphold the rule of law’. So far, the EU’s efforts to tackle corruption have had a limited impact. This is partly because Brussels is restricted in what it can do, unless a matter outside of its direct remit concerns EU funds. The setting up of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will give the EU powers to prosecute criminals for the misuse of its money. While the EPPO is a good initiative on paper, it risks failing in practice because some member-states, including those grappling with significant corruption issues, have chosen not to take part in it. The author argues that the EPPO must be part of a full-spectrum strategy to address corruption and the rule of law in Europe, broadening its focus from laws and institutions alone.

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