REPORT on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention against Corruption

    26.10.2006 - (COM(2006)0082 – C6‑0105/2006 – 2006/0023(CNS)) - *

    Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
    Rapporteur: Giusto Catania

    Procedure : 2006/0023(CNS)
    Document stages in plenary
    Document selected :  
    A6-0380/2006
    Texts tabled :
    A6-0380/2006
    Debates :
    Texts adopted :

    DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

    on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention against Corruption

    (COM(2006)0082 – C6‑0105/2006 – 2006/0023(CNS))

    (Consultation procedure)

    The European Parliament,

    –    having regard to the proposal for a Council decision (COM(2006)0082),

    –    having regard to the UN Convention against Corruption of 31 October 2003,

    –    having regard to the EC Treaty, and in particular Articles 47(2), 57(2), 95, 107(5), 179, 181a, 190(5), 195(4), 199, 207(3), 218(2), 223 final paragraph, 224 penultimate paragraph, 225a penultimate paragraph, 245(2), 248(4) final paragraph, 255(2), 255(3), 260 second paragraph, 264 second paragraph, 266 final paragraph, 279, 280, 283 and 300(2) first subparagraph thereof,

    –    having regard to Article 300(3), first subparagraph, of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C6‑0105/2006),

    –    having regard to Rules 51 and 83(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

    –    having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A6‑0380/2006),

    1.  Approves the proposal for a Council decision as amended and approves conclusion of the agreement;

    2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and Commission.

    Text proposed by the CommissionAmendments by Parliament

    Amendment 1

    Recital 4 a (new)

     

    (4a) It is of the utmost importance that all Member States that have not yet done so sign and ratify the Convention without any further delay,

    EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

    Introduction

    Corruption undermines human rights, democratic institutions, rule of law, judicial system and allows organized crime to flourish. It is detrimental to the transparent management of public affairs and undermines confidence in and the credibility of democratic institutions. It is often used as a mean of influencing or speeding up political and administrative decision-making. It therefore thrives on excessive bureaucracy and the lack of linearity of decision-making processes used by public administrations.

    It hurts the poor harder and has devastating effect on development: corruption leads to reduced aid effectiveness, malnutrition, deficient health and education systems, greater business risk and less foreign direct investment.

    For these reasons, fighting corruption has become in the last years one of the highest political priorities of the EU, both in its internal affairs and in its relations with candidate and third countries.

    The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)

    The UN General Assembly decided in 2000 to establish an ad hoc committee to draw up an international legal instrument against corruption independent of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC). The ad hoc committee negotiated the Convention between January 2002 and October 2003. The EC represented the European Community's interests and considers that the objectives set by the Council have been attained. The text of the UNCAC was adopted in October 2003. The treaty entered into force in December, 2005, following the 30th ratification.

    On 15.09.2005 the EC and the Council Presidency signed the Convention on behalf of the European Community. All the current EU member states and acceding states have signed the convention, with the exception of Slovenia and Estonia. Ratification has already been received from: Austria, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, UK, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.

    UNCAC is a further building block in a world strategy for combating organised crime and dovetails perfectly with the UNTOC. It is therefore of decisive importance, with a view to ensuring effective action to eliminate organised crime, for both conventions to be ratified by all the Member States as well as by the EU.

    The EU's signing of the UNCAC and the wish to approve its final conclusion are fully in keeping with the furtherance of the policy of establishing a common area of freedom, security and justice.

    Article 29(2) TEU includes corruption among the types of crime that need to be prevented and combated with a view to implementing the common area.

    Furthermore, the formulation of an overall policy against corruption was highlighted as a priority goal in the Action plan to combat organised crime adopted by the Council in 1997.

    UNCAC content

    The Convention applies to the prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption and to the freezing, seizure, confiscation and return of the proceeds of offences.

    Corruption can be prosecuted after the fact, but first and foremost, it requires prevention. UNCAC contains measures such as:

    § codes of conduct for public officials, measures to secure the independence of the judiciary,

    § objective criteria for the recruitment and promotion of civil servants, for public procurement,

    § promotion of the transparency and accountability in the management of public finances and in the private sector,

    § participation of civil society.

    It deals also with the creation of criminal offences in relation to corruption and international co-operation, providing for an effective system of mutual legal assistance. At present, many anti-corruption causes are abandoned because the lack of cooperation between countries makes it impossible to follow the money trail. In this aspect, the convention is ground-breaking in including for the first time the concept of international cooperation in the recovery of stolen assets. The States Parties are to cooperate in criminal matters in a variety of situations described by the Convention. The States Parties can also conduct joint investigations and make use of special investigative techniques such as electronic surveillance.

    UNCAC contains measures to promote the recovery of assets, which is a fundamental step forward. The convention raises hopes that funds transferred abroad by corrupt leaders who have plundered the national wealth can be brought back to the countries from where they were looted. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries.

    Financial institutions are encouraged to verify the identity of owners of high-value accounts, in order to make it more difficult for corrupt officials to hide their illicit gains. 

    The convention establishes the right of people who have suffered damage from the corruption to initiate legal proceedings against the responsible parties.

    A conference of the States Parties is established to improve the cooperation between States Parties, to achieve the objectives set forth in the Convention and to promote and review its implementation.

    The proposal for a Council decision

    The draft Council Decision provides for the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Convention. The proposal approves the Convention and authorises the President of the Council to designate a person to deposit the instrument of ratification and to make a declaration of Community competence.

    The text of the declaration is set out in Annex II to the Decision. It notes that the Community has exclusive competence in relation to its own public administration, to develop standards of conduct for its officials and prevent corruption. The declaration also states that the Community has competence in relation to the internal market and for this purpose has adopted measures to ensure equal access to the award of public contracts and markets, to provide for standards in accounting and auditing and measures on money-laundering.

    The Rapporteur’s view

    The UNCAC is not another declaration on corruption; it is a document that deals explicitly with critical aspects of the corruption issue. In our globalised world, it is the first truly global instrument designed to tackle corruption.

    Yet, the Convention is the result of difficult negotiations and it is not perfect. Despite this, it is essential for it to be finally adopted and implemented.

    The rapporteur regrets the fact that the UNCAC does not satisfactorily cover issues such as the criminalisation of passive bribery of international public officials and the effective monitoring of the convention.

    However, the convention’s potential is considerable and it is a good start. At this stage, a prompt ratification by the EU is important because it will ensure its participation in the conference which will meet to decide on the implementation of the UNCAC. The EP regrets, however, that it is only consulted. It is principally of the opinion that, when the European Community becomes the signatory of an international agreement, the EP should be called upon to give its assent.

    Corruption undermines democratic principles, and UNCAC can be a mean of combating transnational organised crime, which is why all the instruments provided for in the Treaties need to be brought to bear with a view to making approval of the Convention a significant factor in assessing the efficiency of public administration.

    The rapporteur considers that, with a view to ensuring the effectiveness of the UNCAC, all necessary measures should be taken to ensure that public administrations operate in a transparent manner and to step up cooperation between member states in all areas of the fight against corruption, including prevention and enforcement. The OLAF should play an important role in implementing the provisions of the Convention. Therefore, the rapporteur calls on the Commission to report back to the EP on the implementation of the Convention on an annual basis and this within the framework of the annual report on the protection of the Communities' financial interests.

    The Council should also present a proposal for a decision establishing a European Anti-Corruption Network without delay.

    Furthermore, a body made up of lawyers, legal academics and recognised experts should be set up to stand as guarantor of the transparency and impartiality of the EU administration in the fight against corruption and ensure that proper checks are made on the assets of employees of the Community institutions, with due respect for the principle of confidentiality. Similar bodies could be set up at national and decentralised levels of public administrations. They could assess information and data on failure to fulfil the duty of impartiality and possible revenue losses caused by public officials.

    The rapporteur welcomes and follows with interest the initiative of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC) to develop ideas and proposals for a code of conduct for Parliamentarians, thereby elaborating on paragraph 8 of the UN Convention against Corruption.

    Public employees who are the subject of legal proceedings could be transferred to another post, to guard against any repeat of the alleged offence. If, however, anyone is convicted of an offence prejudicial to public administration, it should be possible to dismiss them.

    The recovery of assets is one of the main stated aims of the UNCAC. Special attention should therefore be paid to checking on the assets of public officials.

    The rapporteur considers that attention should be focused not just on the employees of all the EU institutions but also on political circles. The assets and incomes of MEPs and Commission’s Members should also be made public.

    Private companies should also be investigated, convicted and blacklisted in case of proven corrupt practices, whatever country they come from.

    The Convention is an outstanding achievement that has already received great support, given the large number of signatory countries. But the Convention’s impact will depend on its effective implementation. The diplomatic undertakings must be transformed into real action and an anti-corruption culture must be created at all levels of the society.

    Monitoring will also be essential. Therefore, the EU should find a solution: either to participate in the GRECO, or to install an EU evaluation mechanism, based on peer reviews.

    The rapporteur calls on the member states and the EU institutions to confirm their commitment in the fight against corruption, in the name of honesty, respect for the rule of law, accountability and transparency, for a better world for all.

    LETTER FROM SZABOLCS FAZAKAS, CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON BUDGETARY CONTROL

    Dear colleague,

    On 3 April 2006 the Council asked the European Parliament to deliver an opinion, pursuant to Article 300, paragraphs 2 and three, on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

    The Committee on Budgetary Control decided initially, on 20 April 2006, to draw up an opinion, in accordance with Annex VI, V, paragraph 5 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure. However, given the time constraints, the committee revised its initial decision and chose to draw up an opinion in form of a letter on 12 July 2006.

    Background of the Commission proposal

    In its Resolution 55/61 of 4 December 2000, the United Nations' General Assembly recognised that an effective international legal instrument against corruption was desirable and decided to establish an ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument. Negotiations on the UNCAC, in which the Commission actively participated when elements were concerned that fell under Community competence, were completed in October 2003.

    The text of the UNCAC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its 58th session in October 2003, and opened for signature at a high-level political conference in Mérida, Mexico from 9-11 December 2003.

    Since the UNCAC is not only open for signature by States but also by regional economic integration organisations, such as the EC, the Council authorised its signing, on behalf of the European Community. The UNCAC was signed, on behalf of the European Community, in New York on 15 September, 2005.

    Content and scope of the UNCAC

    Article 1 of the UNCAC stipulates

    "The purposes of this Convention are:

    (a)     to promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively;

    (b)     to promote, facilitate and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption, including in asset recovery;

    (c)     to promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property."

    The UNCAC contains provisions on corruption which fall within Community competence. These provisions are consistent with the Community's legislation applicable to the public administration of the Community, and with the relevant Community acquis.

    1.  The UNCAC contains provisions which set out obligations with respect to the organisation of the public sector of the State Parties (Chapter II), which in principle are susceptible to being applied to the European Community, once it has become a party to the Convention (Article 67 paragraph 2). Moreover, since Article 2 (a) of the Convention defines "public official" as "any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative or judicial office of a State Party…" this definition would include officials of the European Community once it has acceded to the Convention.

    2.  The Community acquis provides for measures to ensure the free movement of goods, capital and services which includes public procurement legislation intended to ensure transparency and the equal access of all candidates for the public contracts and services markets while preventing fraud, corruption and collusion between those submitting tenders. The Community acquis also contains measures on accounting and auditing. To the extent that provisions of the Convention affect such instruments, the Community has an exclusive competence to accept the corresponding international obligations.

    3.  The UNCAC provides for a high standard of measures to combat money laundering which conform to the Community acquis on measures to prevent the financial system, as well as other institutions and professions considered to be vulnerable, from being used to launder money. The Community is competent in respect of measures concerning cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units by virtue of the third anti-money laundering Directive. In this context it should also be noted that the Commission has submitted a proposal for a Regulation on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the protection of the financial interests of the Community against fraud and any other illegal activities, including money laundering related to EC fraud and corruption in the EU, based on Article 280 TEC.

    4.  Community policy in the sphere of external action, including development cooperation and cooperation with other third countries, complements policies pursued by Member States and includes provisions to combat corruption, for example Art. 97 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement of 23 June 2000, amended on 23 February 2005, which provides for a consultation procedure "in serious cases of corruption" with the ultimate possibility of suspending assistance.

    5.  Finally, the Community acquis also comprises the development of policies and practices aimed at preventing and fighting corruption affecting the financial interests of the European Communities. In addition, it ensures the existence of appropriate bodies which prevent corruption, such as the European Commission, the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), the European Court of Auditors, the Ombudsman, the Court of Justice of the European Communities and the European Parliament (Budgetary Control Committee) as well as the existence of appropriate procedures, such as those set out in Articles 22 (a) and 22 (b) of the Staff Regulations which concern disclosure of information.

    Position of the Committee on Budgetary Control

    The Committee on Budgetary Control

    · welcomes the European Community signing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption; in this context, calls on the Council to support the Regulation on Mutual Administrative Assistance (COM(2004)509 final), which was adopted by Parliament in first reading on 23 June 2005 (OJ C 133 of 8 June 2005);

    · regrets that it was not kept informed about the negotiations on a regular basis;

    · is principally of the opinion that when the European Community becomes a signatory of an international agreement, Parliament should be called upon to give its assent, rather than be consulted;

    · is furthermore of the opinion that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) will play an important role in implementing the provisions of the UNCAC; calls therefore on the Commission to report back to Parliament on the implementation of the convention on an annual basis, within the framework of the annual report on the protection of the Communities' financial interests.

    Yours sincerely,

    Szabolcs Fazakas

    PROCEDURE

    Title

    Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention against Corruption

    References

    COM(2006)0082 – C6-0105/2006 – 2006/0023(CNS)

    Date of consulting Parliament

    28.3.2006

    Committee responsible
      Date announced in plenary

    LIBE
    3.4.2006

    Committee(s) asked for opinion(s)
      Date announced in plenary

    IMCO
    3.4.2006

    CONT
    3.4.2006

    DEVE
    3.4.2006

     

     

    Not delivering opinion(s)
      Date of decision

    IMCO
    18.4.2006

    DEVE
    30.5.2006

     

     

     

    Enhanced cooperation
      Date announced in plenary

     

     

     

     

     

    Rapporteur(s)
      Date appointed

    Giusto Catania
    3.4.2006

     

    Previous rapporteur(s)

     

     

    Simplified procedure – date of decision  Date of decision

     

    Legal basis disputed
      Date of JURI opinion

     

     

     

    Financial endowment amended
      Date of BUDG opinion

     

     

     

    Parliament to consult European Economic and Social Committee
    – date decided in plenary

     

    Parliament to consult Committee of the Regions – date decided in plenary

     

    Discussed in committee

    20.6.2006

    12.9.2006

     

     

     

    Date adopted

    23.10.2006

    Result of final vote

    +:

    –:

    0:

    27

    0

    0

    Members present for the final vote

    Alexander Alvaro, Alfredo Antoniozzi, Edit Bauer, Johannes Blokland, Giusto Catania, Carlos Coelho, Fausto Correia, Panayiotis Demetriou, Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, Kinga Gál, Lívia Járóka, Barbara Kudrycka, Henrik Lax, Sarah Ludford, Edith Mastenbroek, Inger Segelström, Ioannis Varvitsiotis, Stefano Zappalà, Tatjana Ždanoka

    Substitute(s) present for the final vote

    Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, Sophia in 't Veld, Bill Newton Dunn, Siiri Oviir, Hubert Pirker, Marie-Line Reynaud, Antonio Tajani, Rainer Wieland

    Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote

     

    Date tabled

    26.10.2006

     

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