On June 25, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body (GRECO) warned that public perceptions of low levels of corruption in certain countries may lead to underestimating the need for measures to combat corrupt practices. GRECO also expressed concern about the overall slow progress in implementing its recommendations and called on states to address them without delay.

In its annual report, GRECO reviews action taken by its 49 member states against corruption in 2018, notably in respect of MPs, judges and prosecutors, as well as its most recent evaluation round focusing on preventing corruption in central governments and law enforcement agencies.

“Corruption has devastating consequences for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Overall our member states have made progress to put in place measures to prevent and combat corruption, but much more needs to be done. GRECO´s recommendations are not optional. Governments, parliamentarians and other national authorities should show their commitment to fighting corruption by fully implementing GRECO´s recommendations,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

“No country is immune to corruption. All countries, irrespective of their position in perception indexes, are required to take concrete measures to prevent and counter corruption. Relying on perceptions and underestimating the strength of preventive measures leaves the door open to behaviours which may very quickly turn into corruption,” added GRECO’s President, Marin Mrčela.

Nearly all GRECO member states have been evaluated under the 4th evaluation round, which focuses on preventing corruption among parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors. Overall, the implementation of GRECO recommendations slowed down in 2018: only 34% of recommendations had been fully implemented by the end of year. The lowest level of compliance concerned recommendations in respect of parliamentarians (23%), whilst it was higher for those concerning judges (36%) and prosecutors (45%).

As a result of the slow implementation of recommendations, by the end of 2018 fourteen members states were subject to GRECO´s non-compliance procedure concerning the 4th round evaluation. Another two countries were subject to this procedure with regard to other evaluation rounds.

With regard to its 5th evaluation round, which monitors the prevention of corruption in central governments and law enforcement, GRECO has already identified a number of gaps in several countries. These include the need for codes of conduct for ministers and other top executive functions, lobbying, managing of conflicts of interest, asset declarations, immunities and “revolving doors”. GRECO´s recommendations concerning law enforcement have so far focused on codes of conduct, promotion and dismissal mechanisms, conflicts of interest, post-employment restrictions, mechanisms for oversight of police misconduct and the protection of whistleblowers.

In the report, GRECO welcomes that the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption has been widely ratified but regrets that 14 member states – Andorra, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Portugal, Russia, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA – have not yet ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption despite its importance for the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in ensuring effective remedies in domestic law for people who have suffered damage as a result of acts of corruption.

During 2018, GRECO adopted seven evaluation reports, 29 compliance reports and three ad hoc assessments in the context of its new urgent evaluation procedure concerning developments which require rapid action – for example, to assess new legislation that may jeopardise anti-corruption efforts.

The report also contains a feature article on the opportunities and challenges of blockchain in the fight against government corruption by Oxford Internet Institute experts Nikita Aggarwal and Luciano Floridi.