A Critical Appraisal of the EU's Anti-Corruption Legal Capacity

Emerging stronger from the Covid-19 crisis?

IED Research Paper by Mihai-Razvan Corman

09.02.2021

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The EU's most recent approach does not present a viable solution to current rule of law and corruption backsliding across the EU. It rather represents a regress in the EU's policy against corruption. This research paper recommends some policy actions that would enhance the 'rule of law track' and proposes a reconsideration of the EU's current approach towards anti-corruption.

#anticorruption #ruleoflaw #EUpolicy #budgetaryconditionality #Bulgaria


Abstract

In response to the unprecedented social and economic crisis triggered by COVID-19, on 10 November 2020, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have agreed on a historic recovery plan for Europe worth €1.8 trillion. Given the huge amounts of money involved and the absence of an accounting-related control system, the rescue package is prone to increased risks of corruption and fraud. Against this background, a critical appraisal of the EU's anti-corruption legal capacity is more relevant than prior to COVID-19.

This research paper inquires into the EU's ability to monitor and enforce compliance of Member States with anti-corruption rules during the period 2011-2020. Examining the 2014 EU Anti-Corruption Report, the European Rule of Law Mechanism and the budgetary rule of law conditionality, this study argues that the EU's more recent focus on strengthening the rule of law (a) marks the abandonment of the previously pursued comprehensive and distinct policy against corruption, (b) operationalises anti-corruption in a fragmentary and superficial manner and (c) is ill-fitted to tackle the outstanding complex and multi-facetted corruption-specific issues across the EU in the context of COVID-19. It demonstrates that, in contrast to the EU Anti-Corruption Report, the Rule of Law Report does not provide a full picture of systemic corruption issues across the EU, leaves out crucial areas that have been affected most by the misappropriation of EU funds and suffers from severe methodological flaws. This research paper shows that the Regulation on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget only has a limited scope of application and deals with anti-corruption in a minimalistic way.

The research paper suggests that the EU's 'rule of law track' is not able to find an answer to the question of how to proceed when Member States deliberately seek to establish corrupt autocratic regimes and are not interested in strengthening the rule of law. Therefore, the EU's most recent approach does not present a viable solution to current rule of law and corruption backsliding across the EU. It rather represents a regress in the EU's policy against corruption. This research paper recommends some policy actions that would enhance the 'rule of law track' and proposes a reconsideration of the EU's current approach towards anti-corruption.


Author

Mihai-Razvan Corman is Project Manager at the Moldovan-German Forum in Chisinau, PhD Researcher at Ghent University and Research Fellow at the Institut für Europäische Politik in Berlin. He worked as an Independent Consultant for the Council of Europe, European Commission and Bertelsmann Stiftung and as Research Associate for various international law firms dealing with public procurement law, including Hengeler Mueller Rechtsanwälte and KPMG. Corman is an expert in both the EU's internal and external anti-corruption policy towards Member States and neighbouring non-EU countries in the areas of public procurement, policy against fraud for the protection of the Union's financial interests and political party funding. On these subjects he has published numerous articles, studies and research papers. Mihai-Razvan Corman studied law at Humboldt University in Berlin and obtained a Master's Degree at the College of Europe (Natolin).


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