Corruption is the abuse of power for private gain. Corruption takes many forms, such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, but can also hide behind nepotism, conflicts of interest, or revolving doors between the public and the private sectors. Its effects are serious and widespread. Corruption constitutes a threat to security, as an enabler for crime and terrorism. It acts as a drag on economic growth, by creating business uncertainty, slowing processes, and imposing additional costs. Although the nature and scope of corruption may differ from one EU State to another, it harms the EU as a whole by lowering investment levels, hampering the fair operation of the Internal Market and reducing public finances

The true social cost of corruption cannot be measured merely by the amount of bribes paid or public funds diverted. In addition to allowing economic inefficiencies to flourish, corruption adversely affects government objectives ranging from improving income distribution, to better environmental protection. Most importantly, corruption undermines trust in governments, public institutions and democracy in general.

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU recognises corruption as a "euro-crime", listing it among the particularly serious crimes with a cross-border dimension for which minimum rules on the definition of criminal offences and sanctions may be established (TFEU Art. 83.1).

EU Member States have in place most of the necessary legal instruments and institutions to prevent and fight corruption. However, the results they deliver are not satisfactory across the EU. Anti-corruption rules are not always vigorously enforced, systemic problems are not tackled effectively enough and the relevant institutions do not always have sufficient capacity to enforce the rules. Declared intentions are still too distant from concrete results, and genuine political will to eradicate corruption often appears to be missing.

How to step up efforts against corruption?

  • Strengthen accountability and integrity standards;
  • Fine-tune and strengthen internal control mechanisms within public authorities;
  • Strengthen asset disclosure systems;
  • Improve effectiveness of policies for addressing conflicts of interest;
  • Implement more effective policies to address corruption risks at local level and in specific areas or sectors vulnerable to corruption;
  • Improve effectiveness of courts, prosecution services, and law enforcement bodies against corruption;
  • Safeguard the independence and capacity of anti-corruption agencies, there where such agencies are in place;
  • Ensure that criminal proceedings on corruption charges concerning elected politicians are not obstructed;
  • Implement effective protection mechanisms for whistleblowers;
  • Limit risks of foreign bribery, notably in vulnerable sectors such as defence;.
  • Take more determined measures to ensure transparency of lobbying;
  • Develop mechanisms and policies to effectively address corruption risks related to state-owned and state-controlled companies;
  • Further develop e-tools to enhance transparency of public spending and decision making in public administration.

Public Procurement

Corruption in the area of public procurement is a clear barrier to competition in the internal market of the EU.

1. Need for systematic use of corruption risk assessments within public procurement.

2. Implementation of high transparency standards for the entire procurement cycle as well as during contract implementation.

3. Strengthening of internal and external control mechanisms for the entire procurement cycle as well as during contract implementation.

4. Ensuring a coherent overview of and raising awareness about the need for prevention and detection of corrupt practices at all levels of public procurement.

5. Strengthening sanctions for violations of procurement rules.


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