The Group of States Against Corruption (Greco), the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body, has expressed serious concern about the weakening resolve in the fight against corruption in Europe, especially in Romania, Poland and Greece.
“2017 has been a dark year for the fight against corruption,” said Marin Mrcela, the Greco chairperson who presented the body’s annual report on Thursday. “New legislative initiatives in some countries have taken the antithesis of earlier reforms” to better combat this “real threat” that “shatters the democratic system” and “undermines the rule of law”, he said.
Given the “numerous allegations of corruption raised in 2017 in a large number of countries and institutions (…), progress in the fight against corruption can not be taken for granted,” added the vice president of the Supreme Court of Croatia.
The report highlights Romania and Poland, where reforms of the judicial system have caused serious concern and fear of a negative impact on the independence of the courts. “Warsaw and Bucharest have been subject to evaluation procedures launched “in exceptional circumstances” by Greco, the report notes.
The anti-corruption body also addresses the allegations of corruption against the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Some elected officials are “strongly suspected” by an independent commission of inquiry of having acted for several years for the benefit of the government of Azerbaijan in exchange for money and benefits in kind.
These “corrupt practices … are a serious threat to our institutions and to democracy itself,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.
The GRECO report also acknowledged the essential role played by journalists in fighting corruption and paid tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist who was assassinated in October 2017 after she reported on links between Malta’s online gambling industry and organised crime, the sale of EU passports to Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin, and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.
Galizia’s murder “revealed, once again, the need to protect journalists who investigate corruption and to bring the perpetrators of crimes against them to justice,” GRECO said in its report.
Comprised of 48 European states (including Switzerland) and the United States, Greco is a Council of Europe body. It was created in 1999 to improve the capacity of its members to fight against corruption