Sunday

28th Feb 2021

'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly

  • The report said that there was 'strong suspicion' that the assembly's former president, Pedro Agramunt, was 'party to activity of a corruptive nature'. (Photo: Estonian Foreign Ministry)

An independent body investigating the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has concluded there was "strong suspicion" that some former and current members were engaged "in activity of a corruptive nature", related to Azerbaijan.

The damning report comes after ten months of research looking into the conduct of members of the assembly, which consist of MPs from 47 European and Central Asian countries who are all members of the Council of Europe – an international organisation which pre-dates the EU and deals mostly with human rights, democracy and rule of law.

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  • The report said there were 'suspicions that corrupt activities supported by Azerbaijan had played a role' in the appointment of Agramunt as president of the assembly (Photo: Sonke Henning)

The investigation concluded that there was a lack of transparency in the assembly, and that there were conflicts of interests of some members and former members of PACE who dealt with Azerbaijan.

The report, published on Sunday evening (22 April), said that there was "strong suspicion" that the assembly's former president, Pedro Agramunt, was "party to activity of a corruptive nature".

Agramunt already had to leave his post last year, after a vote of no-confidence following a scandal involving his meeting of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The report said that Agrumunt's appointments to the position of president of the European People's Party and then the position of assembly president "were marked with controversy and with suspicions that corrupt activities supported by Azerbaijan had played a role in the appointments".

Other members and former members also acted against the ethical standards of the assembly and broke the relevant code of conduct, the report said.

Among them is Spanish politician Agustin Conde, current state secretary of defence in Spain.

The report focused mainly on corruption and lobbying activities related to Azerbaijan, which had been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001.

But it hinted that much more could be wrong in the assembly.

The report listed allegations that surfaced during the investigation, involving Armenia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Monaco, Montenegro, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The authors of the report suggested that others investigate those allegations.

"Due to the organisational, temporal and operational limitations of the investigation body's mandate, the investigation body has been unable to conduct a thorough investigation into all those allegations," they wrote.

While the Council of Europe's assembly is not as important as EU institutions, the authors noted that its activities have high symbolic value.

"It would be wrong to assume that, since PACE activities might not have direct financial consequences within the member states, this risk is less real," it said.

"Indeed, membership of PACE, and of the COE in general, is important for the image that the authorities of a particular state wish to project in the international community."

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