Combating corruption in the European Union

Briefing 08-12-2022

Corruption is a major challenge for the European Union (EU), with all its Member States affected by the problem to some extent. Its scale, however, is difficult to measure both in Europe and elsewhere. Surveys on the perception of corruption among citizens and experts – such as the Global Corruption Barometer and Eurobarometers – are the principal measurement tool. Since the 1990s, countries around the world have joined efforts to address corruption collectively. This has led to the emergence of widely recognised international laws and standards, adopted in particular by the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations. Mechanisms, such as the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), have been developed to monitor implementation of these rules. The EU has gradually adopted laws addressing a range of corruption-related issues. These include a Directive on the Fight against Fraud to the Union's Financial Interests, as well as directives on public procurement, whistleblowers and money-laundering. However, the legal framework thus created remains patchy, the lack of minimum rules on the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area of corruption being one important missing element. The EU has also developed its own tool for monitoring anti-corruption efforts – the EU anti-corruption report – only to abandon it after having issued its first edition. Recently, corruption-related issues have been addressed almost exclusively within the EU rule of law framework, a development criticised by various stakeholders, including the European Parliament. The latter has adopted numerous resolutions on corruption addressing, among other things, the impact of COVID 19, as well as systemic challenges to rule of law and deficiencies in the EU's fight against corruption. This briefing builds on a study written by Piotr Bakowski and Sofija Voronova in 2017.