Brussels criticises EU capitals on anti-corruption laws
18.06.07 @ 17:43
BRUSSELS - The European Commission's justice commissioner has shown deep frustration over how EU states are failing on promises to fight corruption in businesses, pointing out that just two of them – Belgium and the UK – have key laws fully in place.
"I am disappointed that so many member states have yet to make it a criminal offence to give or receive a bribe through an intermediary or to extend their legislation to cover non-profit organizations," Franco Frattini said on Monday (18 June).
In his report on combating corruption in the private sector, Mr Frattini publicly pointed the finger at EU capitals which have ignored the legislative agreement reached four years ago and which was supposed to be implemented in 2005.
Under its scope, member states must ensure that both active and passive corruption in the private sector – be it direct or through an intermediary - are criminal offences.
Bribery should be punishable by one to three years in jail, while penalties must apply to businesses as well as non-profit organizations.
However, Brussels' report shows that the overwhelming majority of governments has failed to type all of these elements into their national law-books.
For example, while all member states criminalise direct corruption, some of them such as Austria, Italy and Poland do not do so when undue advantage is given or received through an intermediary.
Some states do not punish all types of corrupt conduct - promising, offering or giving a bribe. Others do not have a legislative tool when it comes to intangible, non-financial benefits.
According to commissioner Frattini "we must fight corruption in the private sector in particular because it distorts competition and is harmful to the internal market."
However, Brussels has no real power to press governments to do more, as they enjoy full sovereignty over criminal matters.
In this particular case, although the 2003 agreement on the fight against private sector corruption is binding, it is up to EU capitals to choose the form and method of its implementation.
Mr Frattini's praise of the UK came despite a notorious case in late 2006, when London halted a serious fraud inquiry into Saudi arms deals on the grounds of "national interest."
Meanwhile closer to home, in March one European Commission official and one European Parliament assistant were arrested by Belgian police on charges of corruption.
The scandal, which saw signs of Italian mafia activity in the heart of the EU capital itself, related to commission tenders for its delegation buildings in Albania and India.