On 3 May 2023, the Commission and the High Representative adopted a Joint Communication on corruption which sets out existing EU actions to fight corruption and sets a blueprint for further action. This includes the establishment of an EU network against corruption, which aims to foster collaboration, identify trends and maximise the impact and coherence of European efforts to prevent and fight corruption in order to create more effective anti-corruption policies.
Since 2015, the Commission is regularly organising anti-corruption experience-sharing workshops. These workshops have offered anti-corruption practitioners from Member States a forum to exchange on anti-corruption topics and share insights. This work will be extended and deepened through the EU network against corruption, as it brings together national authorities, practitioners, civil society, international organisations, EU agencies and relevant services of the European Commission.
The EU network against corruption is meant as an umbrella forum for all stakeholders in the EU to exchange good practices, opportunities, ideas and plans for further work. The network is inclusive, bringing in also independent civil society organisations, based on the strong belief that sharing different perspectives leads to better results and a more effective anticorruption policy. This will create synergies, avoid duplication and bring mutual benefit for all. The EU network against corruption can also meet in smaller groups of selected stakeholders, where this is considered beneficial.
Interested stakeholders are invited to point out organisational suggestions additional practitioners, organisations or stakeholders to invite, or suggestions of topics that the network should tackle in the future, via HOME-ANTI-CORRUPTIONec [dot] europa [dot] eu (HOME-ANTI-CORRUPTION[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu).
First plenary meeting of the EU network against corruption
On 20 September 2023, the EU network against corruption met for the first time in Brussels.
In their opening remarks, Ms. Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms. Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, and Ms. Ramona Strugariu, Member of the European Parliament, welcomed the creation of the network as a forum to foster effective anti-corruption policies and strengthen citizens' trust in democracies and institutions.
Participants discussed objectives and potential added value of the network, as well as engaged in interactive discussions on some of the good practices and trends identified in the 2023 Rule of Law report, including on combating corruption in seaports, using technology for prevention and repression of corruption, and education and awareness-raising.
Finally, the Commission presented the most relevant funding opportunities for anticorruption projects under Erasmus+, the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and the Technical Support Instrument (TSI).
One of the main objectives of the EU network against corruption will be to provide a new impetus to corruption prevention efforts across the EU and to develop best practices and practical guidance in various areas of common interest.
The fruitful discussions and participants’ contributions will support the European Commission’s anti-corruption work, such as through the mapping of high-risk areas for corruption which is a concrete deliverable for 2024. The knowledge and best practices shared in the EU network, as well as the mapping of high-risk areas in the EU, will also be used for the development of the first EU strategy against corruption.
|What can the EU network do for you?
|What can you do for the EU network?
|2023 Rule of Law report – Trends and Recommendations
|Anti-corruption EU funding opportunities
Funding anti-corruption projects
The Commission also supports projects aimed at improving integrity and addressing corruption in EU countries, amongst others. Currently ongoing anti-corruption projects, funded under the Internal Security Fund Police (ISFP) 2014-2020 include:
aims at developing and validating a replicable procedure for computing corruption risk in public procurement in the time of pandemic, based on a collection and cross-processing of public procurement data. The procedure is intended at enhancing earlier detection of corruption risk and fostering a stronger evidence base for policy reform, by serving primarily anti-corruption authorities and law enforcement agencies, but also journalists and the general public for accountability objectives.
Project aims to prevent corruption in high-risk areas by empowering European citizens to speak up about misconduct to public, private and civil society organisations that can take action. To achieve this, the action will provide European citizens with safe corruption reporting channels and technical, legal and advocacy assistance.
is an online tool to access political integrity data across Europe. In this third phase of the project, the coverage will be increased from 8 to 16 EU Member States. The aim of the project is to improve the capacity of law enforcement, civil society and media to detect corruption risks and stimulate cross-border cooperation between relevant stakeholders.
A follow-up to the initial project, this project aims to enhance the Datacros prototype tool to detect anomalies in firms’ ownership structure for anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and financial crime prevention. The tool will be tested in operational scenarios by a wide range of end-users: Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), Asset Recovery Offices (AROs), Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), Anti-corruption authorities (ACAs), Competition Authorities (CAs), and investigative journalists.
The Internal Security Fund (ISF) 2021-2027 funds projects to fight corruption. The first Work Programme of ISF includes a dedicated call for proposals on projects covering a wide variety of key policy priorities including preventing corruption in risks sectors, assessing the impact of implemented anti-corruption measures. Enhancing cross-links with organised crime infiltration in the public system, enhancing the effectiveness of corruption prosecution and implementing best practices across the EU. Publication of the call is expected in the first half of 2022.
KLEPTOTRACE will boost the investigation, tracing and recovery of the assets related to transnational high-level corruption and to sanctioned regimes and entities through a combination of (i) research, (ii) training and (iii) data-driven tools. It will: 1. Produce a ground-breaking analysis of the risk factors of transnational high-level corruption and of the schemes used to circumvent EU sanctions; 2. Carry out 5 targeted trainings for EU public authorities, private sector (e.g. banks) and civil society to strengthen anti-corruption investigation/intelligence capabilities; 3. Develop a data-driven toolbox for tracing and interconnecting different assets (e.g. firms, real estate, vessels) related to high-level corruption and sanctioned entities; 4. Carry out an assessment of current EU sanction regimes and make legal and policy recommendations to make them more effective and sustainable against transnational corruption; 5. Boost the awareness of EU authorities and civil society with a dissemination campaign about the risks of ‘kleptocracy’ and of its interlinks with organised crime and illicit financial flows. The KLEPTOTRACE toolbox will build on and improve the DATACROS tool by connecting new asset registers and data beyond firms (e.g. real estate, vessels, asset declarations, sanction lists), and by embedding innovative artificial intelligence-based risk assessment functions. It will cover 200+ countries and be accessible by interested authorities from all EU member states. KLEPTOTRACE consortium (covering 8 EU member states, more than 30 countries including associate partners) represents all interested target groups: three leading research centres (UCSC, UNI.LU, HUA), law enforcement and asset recovery authorities (CNP, ANABI), anti-corruption agencies (ANAC), financial intelligent units/financial supervisory authorities (FIU LV, MFSA), civil society/journalists (IRPI, CONTEXT.RO), the European Business Registry Association (EBRA) as associate partner, EUROPOL and the Network of Corruption Prevention Authorities (NCPA) as external supporters.
POSEIDON seeks to enhance EU level actions against corruption in the maritime sector, with a particular focus on corruption in major ports. The aim is to bring together governmental stakeholders (port management authorities, customs authorities, etc.), relevant (private) port stakeholders, and research institutes and networks with a view to filling existing gaps in research on corruption in ports, develop a targeted port integrity/risk assessment tool, and foster inter-port dialogue and enhancing the public-private-partnership. The project will help the ports involved tackle jointly identified vulnerabilities and exchange best practices.
Public procurement accounts for about 14% of the EU’s GDP and a large part of the EU’s Cohesion and Recovery and Resilience Facility spending goes through public procurement. Corruption risks in this sector remain high despite many anti-corruption initiatives. Due to the lack of monitoring capacity, law enforcement is typically able to investigate a small portion of likely corrupt cases. To remove obstacles to corruption detection and investigation iMonitor sets out to combine Big Data analytics with extensive civil monitoring of ongoing contracts in Catalonia (Spain), Italy, Lithuania, and Romania. It builds on prior EU-funded projects making public procurement data and corruption risk indicators available () and a citizen reporting tool dedicated to monitoring public spending (). It departs from other EU-funded projects, such as Integrity Pacts, by focusing on a larger number of more easily monitored projects (i.e. less complex, less technical). It will create networks of civil monitors and law enforcement agencies to draw on civil society’s extensive reach and on-the-ground monitoring capacity. It will create a dedicated reporting standard bringing together quantitative corruption risk indicators and detailed civil monitoring results to produce high-quality, targeted and operationally relevant reports for law enforcement and other public authorities. The direct impact of the project is to generate new investigations and other administrative responses to irregularities in contract implementation. Intense monitoring activities send a powerful signal to corrupt organisations, likely resulting in a broader preventive impact. Sustainability of our networks and efforts is central to this approach. It builds replicable and low-cost skills development components in the project, supporting further monitoring. It will also maintain the 2 fundamental technological components of the project: opentender.eu and monithon.eu.
The Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) coordinates and provides tailor-made technical support to EU Member States, in cooperation with the relevant Commission services. The support is primarily provided through the Technical Support Instrument (TSI). The goal is to support Member States’ efforts to design and implement resilience-enhancing reforms, thereby contributing to the EU’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, improving the quality of public services and getting back on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.
The Commission’s Quality Administration Toolbox provides a reference and resource by pointing readers to existing EU policies and international practices in the field of public administration and governance
Furthermore, the Commission publishes calls on research and activities related to the fight against corruption. These calls are also open to private entities and NGOs.
Experience Sharing Workshops
The Commission organises regularly anti-corruption experience-sharing workshops across the EU for the anti-corruption authorities of the Member States.
On 14 March 2023, the 16th Experience-sharing Workshop in the Fight against Corruption took place in Brussels. The workshop gathered Member State representatives from Ministries of Interior and Justice, Anti-Corruption Agencies, police and prosecution, as well as Europol, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and several Commission services.
In particular, the workshop discussed the Commission’s proposal for a Directive to combat corruption by criminal law and the overall priorities of the EU to prevent and fight corruption which will be outlined in an accompanying Communication, scheduled for adoption in May 2023.
With EU Member States, discussion focused on a broader understand of the definitions of corruption offences included in the proposal such as misappropriation, obstruction of justice and illicit enrichment. At a later stage, the opportunity of adding additional sanctions, such as disqualification from holding public office, when corruption is committed by a high-level official, and aggravating circumstances were discussed.
With regards to the Communication, most participants from Member States called for improving measures to prevent corruption, including regular trainings for practitioners. Participants also called for synergies and cooperation between the EU and international organisations involved in the fight against corruption, including on the opportunity of sharing documents and information.
The 15th Experience-sharing workshop in the Fight against Corruption took place in Brussels.
This workshop brought together representatives of EU Member States, Commission services and international organisations to discuss the future of the fight against corruption in the EU. In particular, the Workshop discussed the Commission’s planned anti-corruption package, the criminalisation of certain corruption offences such as trading in influence and illicit enrichment, and the strategic framework at national and European level.
DG HOME recalled the work done during the 14th workshop in September 2022, focusing on the topic of lobbying; and looked forward to following up on the recommendations on lobbying in the 2023 Rule of Law report. OECD informed the workshop of the ongoing work on the revised OECD recommendation on lobbying and their monitoring and implementation work on the existing recommendation.
The Criminalisation of corruption in the EU
DG HOME presented the ongoing work on the anti-corruption package, including a possible Communication and Directive. The Directive would replace the currently outdated acquis on corruption, which focuses on the criminalisation of bribery, and go beyond this, including the possible criminalisation of offences such as illicit enrichment, trading in influence and abuse of power. Member States actively engaged with questions and comments.
As part of the data collection for the proposal, the Commission welcomed the wide response to its first questionnaire and presented the preliminary results on the (powers of) specialised authorities, the average time of bribery proceedings and the wider availability of criminal justice data on bribery. The results of this questionnaire could eventually be included in the EU Justice Scoreboard.
Discussions later on in the workshop focused on two offences included in the UN Convention against Corruption: illicit enrichment and trading in influence. Darius Mickevicius from the Lithuanian investigative service presented the criminalisation of illicit enrichment in Lithuania, while Oliver Landwehr presented an academic perspective on some of the difficulties with the offence. On trading in influence, Teeli Mägi, assistant prosecutor from Estonia presented the Estonian experience with criminalising the provision, including concrete cases; while Chanez Mensous from Sherpa presented an NGO perspective from France.
The fight against corruption at strategic level
Member States discussed also lessons learned from their national anti-corruption strategies, including example from Czechia, Portugal, France and Italy. The UN Office from Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the secretariat of the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) represented their views a successful anti-corruption strategy.
The EU’s strategic role in the prevention of and fight against corruption was also discussed, with presentation of Nick Aiossa from Transparency International EU on what the EU can do more; while Radu Nicolae, president of the board of Syene Centre for Education, highlighted the role the EU can play in its neighbourhood.
The 14th Experience-sharing Workshop in the Fight against Corruption took place in Brussels.
The workshop was the first physical workshop since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic bringing together representatives from member states, COM services and institutions, lobbyists, academia and civil society organisations.
As one of the topics covered by the Rule of Law Report’s chapter on anti-corruption, in the 2022 Rule of Law Report, the European Commission has provided Member States for the first time with recommendations. For 15 EU countries, there has been a recommendation to better regulate lobbying. Representatives of EU countries discussed the lobbying regulatory systems in France and Lithuania.
Discussions between EU countries with civil society, public affairs and business organisations focused on transparency in lobbying, focusing on the degree of transparency needed in interactions with lobbyists; the definition of who is a lobbyist; if there can be “too much” transparency and the role of unethical lobbying. Panelists included Mr. Sven CLEMENT, member of Parliament in Luxembourg, Mr. Christian FEUSTEL, senior policy advisor for BusinessEurope, Mr. Stefaan FIERS, the president of BEPact, and Mr. Olivier HOEDEMAN, research and campaign coordinator at Corporate Europe Observatory.
The workshop also discussed three fictional cases on lobbying and lobbying regulation in smaller break-out groups. The case studies covered issues such as influence through attendance of public officials at a company-sponsored event; influencing public decisions in private environments between friends and the registration of informal meetings in a transparency register.
A key takeaway from the workshop is that there exists no single solution that would fit all with regards to lobbying regulation. Rules need to be adapted depending on the situation in each country. It is important to raise awareness about lobbying among public officials and citizens. Lobbying remains a legitimate act, but integrity and accountability need to be ensured, and all associations and stakeholders should have a level-playing field.
This 13th Experience-Sharing Workshop brought together representatives of EU Member States, the European Commission, Europol and academia to discuss the theme of anti-corruption resilience in times of crisis.
Over the course of the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crises can have a profound impact on several areas, including in the fight against corruption. The pandemic has exacerbated corruption risks in several sectors, both across the EU and within Member States, showing the importance of ensuring the resilience of public sector institutions, and highlighting the need for strengthening cross-border cooperation and overall synergies in the implementation of response measures.
In this Experience Sharing Workshop, participants assisted to presentations from representatives of Europol and academia, who provided, respectively, an update of Europol’s latest developments in the field of anti-corruption; and an overview of different ways of ensuring resilience to corruption in times of crisis, including through Member State-specific examples. Each presentation lasted around thirty minutes and included a Question & Answer (Q&A) session to facilitate the debate and the sharing of experiences. The workshop concluded with an interactive roundtable aimed at collecting participants’ insights on their perception of sectors that are most vulnerable to corruption and of the most relevant measures for ensuring resilience to these risks.
This Experience Sharing Workshop was organised online due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. All discussions were held under Chatham House rule.
Floriana Sipala, Head of Unit, Organised Crime, Drugs and Corruption, DG HOME, opened the workshop with a brief reflection of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on efforts to prevent and fight corruption, both at EU level as well as within individual EU Member States.
She explained how the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the risk of corruption and further increased the phenomenon of infiltration of organised crime in the legal economy, highlighting how 60% of organised crime groups rely on corruption to do so, as indicated in the Europol’s threat assessment (SOCTA 2021).
Stressing that this remains a priority concern at EU level, she presented ongoing work within the EU institutions to collect information on this issue as well as to devise measures to fight the phenomenon. This includes ongoing discussions on how to prevent and tackle infiltration of corruption and organised crime in the Next Generation EU fund, as well as research being conducted on this matter on behalf of the European Parliament. Ms. Sipala further highlighted how the Commission will continue monitoring the situation in the area of anti-corruption in all EU Member States in 2022, and that these efforts will be stepped up by incorporating relevant recommendations in the Rule of Law country chapters. The recently set-up European Public Prosecutors’ Office (EPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) will continue to play a relevant role. The Commission will also continue to implement its newest Strategy to tackle Organised Crime (2021 – 2025), and as part of these efforts will launch a study to assess the EU acquis on anti-corruption and the steps that can be taken to further advance this. Further attention will continue to be paid to key issues such as highly complex corruption cases, as well as the existence and application of criminal sanctions and investigations for corruption across the EU.
Ms. Sipala concluded by thanking all EU Member States’ authorities for their cooperation on these matters and by mentioning that the Commission, while remaining mindful of the competences and mandates of all actors involved, is committed to providing its support to Member States with a view to enhancing criminal investigations and analyses in the area of anti-corruption and organised crime.
Europol update on anti-corruption activities
Mr Frédéric Pierson, Senior specialist, Team leader expertise at Europol, opened the workshop with an update on the work which Europol undertakes in uncovering and exposing corruption, and the recent developments in its organisational structure which enable the organisation to do so.
He began by explaining how Europol has been stepping up its efforts to better identify and fight corruption with the establishment in June 2020 of the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC). The EFECC is structured around four components: financial crime; counterfeiting; economic crime; and expertise policy and stakeholders. The financial crime unit focuses on the areas of money laundering, asset recovery and corruption, with the aim of strengthening the level of support provided to Member States in these areas. According to Mr Pierson, the creation of the centre has enhanced Europol’s ability to support Member States’ analysis and international cooperation in anti-corruption, money laundering and asset recovery cases. Mr Pierson stressed that corruption remains a high priority threat for Europol.
Diving deeper into the role of Europol in supporting investigations, he described the results of some recent cases on the use of encrypted systems as enablers of organised crime activities. These investigations provided insights on how widespread corruption is across EU Member States, both in the public and private sectors, across all levels. Mr Pierson further presented some of the practical tools Europol can offer Member States to strengthen their cooperation in this area. This includes the Carin Asset Recovery network, which he encouraged workshop participants to tap into in case where they might require support in tracing and freezing assets cross-border.
The presentation concluded with a brief Q&A session, where participants discussed more in depth the results of the investigations described and debated current and future challenges for the EU and its Member States in the interlinked fields of organised crime and corruption.
Ensuring resilient anti-corruption measures in times of crisis
The second presentation was delivered by Dr Mihaly Fazekas, Assistant Professor at the Central European University and Director of the Government Transparency Institute.
Dr Fazekas provided in its intervention a broader overview of the impact crises can have on corruption and anti-corruption developments, and the types of resilience measures which can be implemented, drawing on specific examples from the current COVID-19 crisis for illustrative purposes. He explained that crises can represent an opportunity for both increased corruption but also for strengthening the anti-corruption framework, stressing that institutional resilience will likely depend on existing checks and balances in institutional frameworks before the crisis hits, and that the key challenge is to foresee and steer the impact on the long term, understanding whether and how to revert to the pre-crisis equilibrium.
Following an explanation of the different types of approaches identified for countering corruption more broadly and the potential impacts of crises on corruption, Dr Fazekas delved more in depth on the possible safeguards which can allow institutions to be protected against corruption in times of crisis. This includes reliance on robust and fast e-government solutions (including e-procurement); ring-fencing emergency rules and spending; and strengthening ex-post controls. He then proceeded to provide some concrete examples drawn by ongoing studies on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Member States’ anti-corruption frameworks.
Dr Fazekas concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of increasing the likelihood of being resilient to a crisis by ensuring that the institutions are well prepared before the crisis hits. The presentation was followed by a brief Q&A session on the findings of the studies presented, including the transferability of results related to public sector resilience to the private sector.
Interactive roundtable and conclusive remarks
Before bringing the workshop to an end, Anitta Hipper, Team leader Fight Against Corruption, Organised Crime, Drugs and Corruption Unit at DG HOME, led an interactive round table discussion amongst participants.
Through the use of an online polling system, workshop attendees were asked to reflect and share their experiences on what they consider to be the most vulnerable areas and sectors for corruption in times of crisis; and what they believe to be particularly effective responses to increase resilience in the fight against corruption. The responses collected reflected the general themes that had emerged during the workshop and the related discussions. Participants considered public procurement, health care and local government, inter alia, to be amongst the most vulnerable sectors; and transparency, open data, education, training and cross-border cooperation amongst the most valuable responses for increasing resilience.
Ms. Hipper concluded the workshop by emphasising the key role which these workshops can play in assisting EU Member States by providing a forum to exchange experiences and relevant developments in the area of anti-corruption. She encouraged participants to provide suggestions for possible topics for future meetings.