EU commission drops anti-corruption report
The EU commission scrapped plans to publish a report on anti-corruption efforts throughout EU states.
When pressed to explain why, EU commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on Thursday (2 February) refused to speculate.
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"For the commission, the fight against corruption is not in any way an attempt to interfere or offer value judgments within the political life in a member state," Schinas told EUobserver.
At the time of the publication of the first report in February 2014, the EU commission announced it would issue a follow-up "in two years' time" in an effort to "take stock of how far we have moved forward together".
The 2014 report said member states needed to strengthen controls, put in place more "dissuasive sanctions", and improve transparency.
The Commission was also supposed to look at the EU institutions but dropped the internal assessment because they "realised that this is something we will have to come back to in a future EU anti-corruption report."
With the 2016 report already past the due date, the transparency campaigners were hoping for a late release.
Timmermans rollbacks on promise
But commission vice-president Frans Timmermans has dashed those hopes.
On 25 January, he sent a two-page internal letter to the chair of the EU parliament's civil liberty committee, British socialist MEP Claude Moraes.
The letter states that there is no need to publish any more reports. It states the first report in 2014 was good enough because it provided an overview and created a basis for further work.
"This does not necessarily mean that a continued succession of similar reports in the future would be the best way to proceed," it says.
The surprise move comes amid widespread anti-graft protests in Romania after the government de-criminalised low-level corruption.
It comes amid an unfolding scandal in France where presidential contender Francois Fillon is facing allegations of fraud after paying his wife almost €1 million for fictive work from the public coffer.
It also follows an annual Transparency International corruption perceptions index that ranks Romania among the worst offenders in the EU.
Rhetoric versus reality
Timmermans and EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had earlier this week issued a short joint-statement on Romania. The two noted that the "fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone."
But such statements, given their refusal to publish future anti-corruption reports, have riled transparency campaigners.
“The gap between the rhetoric from President Juncker and Vice-President Timmermans and the reality on the ground is striking," said Carl Dolan, Transparency International's Europe director, in a statement.