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Protecting the EU’s financial interest

The EU needs to ensure that every euro and every cent is spent for its proper purpose and in line with rule of law principles. EU funds are not allowed to seep away into dark channels.

President of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, in her State of the Union speech
Videoconference between Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and the Members of the New European Bauhaus High-Level Roundtable

Anti-corruption in the European Semester - to protect our economies

Preventing and fighting corruption is an important aspect of the European Semester cycle of economic governance, which is the main dialogue on economic policy between the EU and national authorities.

The European Semester country reports include detailed analysis of corruption risks and associated challenges. In relevant cases, these issues are also reflected in Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs), endorsed each year by national leaders in the European Council.

Recommendations include:

  • to tackle inefficient practices in public procurement
  • to strengthen rules for preventing conflicts of interest
  • to revise the statute of limitations for corruption offences
  • to address informal payments in healthcare

In the context of the European Semester on economic governance, eight EU countries have so far received Country-Specific Recommendations relating to corruption in the years 2020 and 2019. In addition, recitals on corruption are included for all those EU countries where structural challenges exist regarding their anti-corruption capacity.

Protecting Next Generation EU funds

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has generated devastating effects in our society. New vulnerabilities have emerged in the context of the COVID-19, with corruption risks increasing particularly in two specific sectors - the health sector and the area of public procurement, where important safeguards have been lifted to allow for the swift distribution of medical equipment and supplies. Other vulnerabilities appeared with regard to diminishing transparency of and access to information of public administrations. This increases risks of abuse of power and high-level corruption. While the fight against corruption has been a long-standing challenge, crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic heighten the importance for stronger and more robust anti-corruption and good governance measures.

The changed context driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the temporary adaptation of the European Semester to coordinate it with the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the key instrument at the heart of Next Generation EU (a temporary recovery instrument) to help the EU mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable and resilient.

The fight against corruption, fraud and the prevention of conflicts of interest are key measures integrated in the recovery and resilience plans of each EU country to protect the financial interests of the Union.

EU agencies and bodies that protect EU’s budget

At operational level, the EU works to protect the Union’s financial interests and to ensure that the Next Generation EU funds are safeguarded from corruption and fraud. In particular, a number of agencies and bodies have key roles to play in safeguarding the EU budget: