|On 11 December 2012, the first Regional Workshop on the preparation of the EU Anti-Corruption Report was held in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was organised by the European Commission, Directorate General Home Affairs. The purpose of the event was twofold: to informing relevant stakeholders of the structure, content and ongoing work of the EC on the first EU Anti-Corruption Report to be published in 2013. Secondly, the workshop aimed at gathering practical information from various partners on specific to their countries good and less effective practices in the fight against corruption.|
Nearly a hundred experts on corruption-related matters from 13 EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and Croatia attended the event. Each country was represented by experts from governmental institutions and the public administration, the judiciary, civil society, academia and the business sector. The workshop was opened by Ms. Maria Åsenius, Head of Cabinet Commissioner Malmström, DG Home Affairs; Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of the Center for the Study of Democracy; and Mr. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria. Ms. Maria Åsenius, Head of Cabinet Commissioner Malmström, DG Home Affairs welcomed the participants and highlighted the importance and complexity of the problem of corruption, which has a negative impact on society and economic development in Europe.
Ms. Åsenius pointed out that around EUR 120 billion are lost each year to corruption activities in the EU Member States, as well as 20-25% of all signed public procurement contracts. Conflicts of interest and lack of transparency in political party financing are also fundamental problems, while illegal cross-border activities related to organised-crime call for increased cross-border cooperation in the EU. Ms. Åsenius referred to alarming trends identified in recent Eurobarometer surveys: three of four persons consider corruption to be among the most important problems in the EU, more than a half of the European citizens believe corruption in their countries to be on the rise, while 40% think that close ties between business and politics facilitates corruption. In this context, Ms. Åsenius stressed that the EU Anti-Corruption Report can be the voice of anti-corruption actions across the EU and a powerful boost to political will. The necessary legislation is largely in place but joint efforts and cooperation are needed in terms of implementation and impact.
Mr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of Center for the Study of Democracy congratulated the European Commission on the initiative of the EU Anti-Corruption Report, as well as on the cooperation and verification mechanism, which has proved to be a fruitful monitoring tool. Mr. Shentov highlighted two important developments in terms of monitoring corruption and anti-corruption. Since its foundation, the Center for the Study of Democracy has been at the forefront of the fight against corruption. Although the monitoring of corruption today is a widely accepted practice, in the late nineties, when CSD launched its Corruption Monitoring System, the initiative was facing major methodological and political difficulties. In addition, Mr. Shentov discussed the importance of the use of corruption monitoring as a social technology, also referred to as partnership triangulation. The term implies that a comprehensive action in the anti-corruption domain is only possible through synergetic cooperation between policy makers, non-government organizations and support from international partners. A good example in this respect is the initiative Coalition 2000, launched in the beginning of the millennium by the Center for the Study of Democracy.
Mr. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the Republic of Bulgaria, praised the new EU initiative, while also acknowledging the contribution of the Hague and Stockholm programmes, which laid the conceptual foundation and necessary indicators for EU-wide efforts in the area of combating corruption. Mr. Tsvetanov recognized the usefulness of the Cooperation and Verification mechanism for alignment with the highest EU standards in a number of areas. Unfortunately, Bulgaria continues to be among the countries, where corruption is considered a serious problem of the society, although it is a frontrunner in drafting and implementing anti-corruption strategies. Corruption pressure is most clearly expressed in awarding public procurement contracts, which are valued at nearly 4.5 billion leva per year. Mr. Tsvetanov pointed out that despite these obstacles, the country continues to increase its administrative capacity, for instance though the establishment and strengthening of the AFCOS office, allowing for more comprehensive administrative investigations into EU funds fraud. At the same time, the various adopted anti-corruption strategies and initiatives were not left unnoticed by EU evaluations.
Mr. Jakub Boratynski, Head of Unit “Fight against Organised Crime” at DG Home Affairs, introduced the structure and rationale of the EU Anti-Corruption Report. The upcoming report will not comprehensively examine corruption issues but will employ a selective approach. In each country the focus will fall on different pressing issues, on the impact of corruption and the enforcement of anti-corruption policies. It will use a relatively wide definition of corruption and will follow a “case by case” approach, thus departing from traditional comparison amongst countries along pre-set criteria. Another distinctive characteristic of the initiative is that while it will make use of a great range of available information sources, it will be of no additional burden to national administrations. In contrast to existing evaluations, undertaken by different international organisations, the upcoming report will be prepared by the European Commission, with the support of regional experts from academia and the non-governmental sector, thus ensuring greater independence and objectivity. The first EU Anti-Corruption Report will have a thematic section on public procurement followed by country reports covering specific key challenges, good practices and recommendations.
Agenda (Adobe PDF, 381 KB)