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How the EU helps Member States fight corruption

The Commission regularly organises anti-corruption experience-sharing workshops across the EU and funds various projects in relation to the fight against corruption.

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:

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.

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.

Experience-Sharing Workshop in the fight against corruption on lobbying in Europe

Brussels, 14 September 2022

On 14 September 2022, the 14th Experience-sharing Workshop in the Fight against Corruption took place in Brussels. The workshops was the first physical workshop since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic bringing together representatives from:

  • 19 EU countries
  • Commission services
  • the European Ombudsman
  • parliamentarians
  • lobbyists
  • academia
  • civil society
  • and experts of the network of Local Research Correspondents on Corruption (LRCC)

Participants discussed topics surrounding lobbying corresponding to the workshop’s title: “Lobbying in Europe: balancing public interest and privileged access”.

Lobbying is a legitimate and lawful act to influence public officials. However, it needs to be accompanied by strong requirements of transparency and integrity to ensure accountability and inclusiveness in decision-making. Several EU countries have regulated lobbying, like introducing a mandatory transparency register of lobbyists, while others have no regulation in place.

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Participants of EU Member States during the morning session of the workshop

Lobbying is 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.

The workshop was opened by Ute Stiegel, Acting Head of Unit: Enforcement, Transparency and Rule of Law Monitoring at DG HOME. Representatives of EU countries discussed the lobbying regulatory systems in France and Lithuania. Both systems were presented in detail explaining the transparency registers, legislative footprint, the registration obligation and enforcement, and sanctions. Participants also discussed the particularities and challenges of drafting and implementing legislation on lobbying in their EU country.

Discussions between EU countries with civil society, public affairs and business organisations focused on transparency in 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
  • Mr. Olivier HOEDEMAN, research and campaign coordinator at Corporate Europe Observatory

Discussions focused 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. Participants illustrated their points with concrete examples concerning the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The workshop also discussed three fictional cases on lobbying and lobbying regulation in smaller break-out groups, to more concretely apply lobbying legislation and regulation in practice. 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.

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Participants of the workshop during the break-out sessions discussing fictional cases regarding lobbying

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. The European Commission will continue to advocate this topic, in particular in the context of the Rule of Law Report and the follow-up of various recommendations addressed to EU countries.

Experience-Sharing Workshop: Ensuring anti-corruption resilience in times of crisis

Online, 13 December 2021

This 14th 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.

Experience-Sharing Workshop: Preventing corruption in State-Owned Enterprises

Berlin, 7 May 2019

The 11th Experience Sharing Workshop organised by the European Commission (Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs – DG HOME) brought together representatives from national ministries, senior prosecutors and law enforcement officials from Member States, international organisations, civil society and the private sector, as well as experts from the Commission, and addressed the issue of preventing corruption in State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

SOEs account for a very large share of employment and economic output in EU Member States, and are active in sectors which provide key public services such as energy, transport, and health. SOEs often operate with an extensive scope of public ownership and combine commercial with public policy objectives. Good governance, transparency and integrity are key principles for both positive economic performance of SOEs and allowing for an assessment of their effectiveness in serving the public interest.

The first EU Anti-Corruption Report in 2014 highlighted a number of issues in the management of SOEs. This included shortcomings in oversight; politicisation as an obstacle to merit-based appointment; insufficient safeguards to prevent conflict of interests; shortcomings in the transparency of allocation of funds and purchases, and party financing rules related issues.

Through presentations delivered by experts in the field of anti-corruption, the 11th Experience Sharing Workshop sought to discuss the corruption-related challenges faced by SOEs and possible ways to address them. The workshop facilitated participants to share relevant national experiences and best practices.

Experience-Sharing Workshop: The Role of Prosecution in the Fight against high-level Corruption

Paris, 25 June 2018

The 10th Experience Sharing Workshop, organised by the Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission brought together senior prosecutors and law enforcement officials from Member States, law professionals, civil society, private sector as well as investigative journalists and representatives of international organisations and bodies involved in the fight against corruption (Europol, GRECO) and Commission experts.

The 2014 EU Anti-corruption report showed that many Member States place a high burden on law enforcement and prosecution bodies or on anti-corruption agencies which are perceived to be solely responsible for addressing corruption in the country. Corruption cannot be tackled without a comprehensive approach aiming to also effectively enhance prevention and control mechanisms throughout the public administration, at central and local levels. However prosecution remains the critical element in fighting corruption. In the absence of effective and successful prosecutions, impunity will prevail. It is essential that prosecution services are independent, have adequate capacity and resources and benefit from the necessary support.

Acts of corruption involving high-level public officials generally have significant impact on society by distorting policies or the functioning of the state at the expense of the public good. When it occurs, and particularly when it goes unsanctioned, high level corruption undermines public trust and erodes the principles of democratic governments. On the other hand, successful prosecutions of high-level corruption cases have a huge galvanizing effect in pushing back against corruption.

In opening the workshop, Irina Stefuriuc, Head of Sector Fight against Corruption at DG HOME, presented EU initiatives supporting the fight against corruption in the Member States:  analyses and recommendations in the context of the European Semester of economic governance, legislative initiatives relevant for the fight against corruption, and technical and financial support to Member States.