The European Commission, in its first EU Anti-Corruption Report, shows that there is no corruption-free zone in Europe and that corruption affects all EU member states. The report, adopted on 4 February 2014, is important for politicians, the public, the media and practitioners alike in taking national corruption policy forward. Companies will also find it a useful tool to review and update their bribery and corruption risk assessment.

The report explains the current status in each member state by addressing the questions:

  • what anti-corruption measures are in place
  • which measures are working well
  • what could be improved and how.

The report shows that both the nature and level of corruption, and the effectiveness of measures taken to fight it, vary from one member state to another. It also shows that corruption deserves greater attention in all member states. Based on its findings, the report goes on to recommend improvements to each of the national laws and enforcement policies used in the fight against corruption.

The recommendations in the report include the following:

  • better accountability and integrity standards
  • control mechanisms in public authorities
  • dealing with conflicts of interests by officials
  • how to address corruption at the local level and in state-owned companies
  • the effectiveness of courts and police, and protection mechanisms for whistleblowers
  • limiting bribery risks in foreign countries, and making lobbying more transparent
  • developing innovative e-tools to enhance transparency.

For the Netherlands, the report recommends extending the categories of assets that must be declared by elected officials. It also recommends that the Netherlands focus its efforts on prosecuting corruption cases in international business transactions by increasing the capacity to proactively investigate foreign bribery.

A specific Euro barometer survey was also carried out to understand the level of perception of corruption and the experience of corruption.  Key findings are as follows:

  • 75% of the companies say that corruption is widespread in their country
  • 43% of European companies see corruption as a problem when doing business. It is most likely to be considered a problem when doing business with companies in the Czech Republic (71%), Portugal (68%), Greece and Slovakia (both 66%)
  • Almost half of the companies agree that the only way to succeed in business in their country is to have political connections
  • Favouring friends and family in business (43%) or public institutions (43%) are considered the most widespread corrupt practices, followed by tax fraud and non-payment of VAT (42%)
  • 32% of the companies that have participated in public tenders/public procurement say corruption prevented them from winning a contract, and this view is most widely held among construction (35%) and engineering sector companies (33%). At least half of the companies in Bulgaria (58%), Slovakia (57%), Cyprus (55%) and the Czech Republic (51%) say this

The report is based on data from existing anti-corruption monitoring mechanisms (GRECO, OECD, UNCAC), as well as information from EU member states’ public authorities, civil society, independent experts and academic research. Indicators of perception of, and experience with, corruption (e.g., the Euro barometer on corruption) were taken into account.

The main goal of the report is to initiate a broad debate about anti-corruption measures and to elicit feedback on the report from the member states, the European Parliament, national parliaments, private sector and civil society. The feedback will be taken into account and analysed for a second report and perhaps new corruption indicators will be added. The next EU Anti-Corruption Report will be issued in two years.

Companies and practitioners will find this report valuable in becoming more aware of the diverse anti-bribery and corruption laws and policies in different member states. Companies operating in these countries will find the report, alongside the Euro barometer survey, a useful tool to review and update their bribery and corruption risk assessment.