Corruption has been one of the most pervasive and pernicious social ills since antiquity. It is detrimental to the administration of public affairs when it involves public authorities and elected representatives. It has also been viewed as a major threat in the private sector since the end of the nineteenth century, weakening the trust and confidence necessary for the preservation and development of viable economic and social interactions. Bribes are believed to be worth hundreds of billions of euros each year.
The Council of Europe exists to promote and protect pluralist democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and it has taken the lead in combating corruption, which threatens the fundamental foundations of these ideals. Corruption threatens the rule of law, democracy, and human rights, undermines good governance, fairness, and social justice, distorts competition, stifles economic development, and jeopardizes the stability of democratic institutions and society’s moral foundations, as stated in the Criminal Law Convention.
The Council of Europe formed the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in 1999 to monitor states’ compliance with the organization’s anti-corruption criteria.
The goal of GRECO is to increase its members’ capability to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with Council of Europe anti-corruption standards through a dynamic process of peer pressure and mutual review. It aids in the identification of flaws in national anti-corruption efforts, resulting in legal, institutional, and practical remedies. GRECO also serves as a forum for discussing best practices in corruption prevention and detection.
GRECO membership is open to all countries, not just those that are members of the Council of Europe. Any State that participated in the drafting of the enlarged partial agreement may join by contacting the Council of Europe’s Secretary General. Furthermore, every country that joins the Criminal or Civil Law Conventions against Corruption immediately joins GRECO and its review procedures. GRECO now has 50 member states (48 European States and the United States of America). (read more…)
Through a continuous process of reciprocal review and peer pressure, GRECO keeps track of all of its members on an equal footing. The GRECO mechanism ensures that the ideal of equality of rights and obligations is strictly adhered to by its members. All members take part in the mutual evaluation and compliance procedures and submit themselves to them without reservation.
The following are the components of GRECO monitoring:
a “horizontal” evaluation process (all members are examined within an Evaluation Round), leading to suggestions to advance the required legislative, institutional, and practical reforms;
a method for evaluating the actions done by its members to execute the suggestions.
GRECO works in cycles, with each round focusing on a different theme. The first round of GRECO’s evaluation (2000–2002) focused on the independence, specialization, and resources available to national bodies engaged in the prevention and fight against corruption. It also addressed the breadth and scope of public officials’ immunity from arrest, prosecution, and other forms of prosecution. The second evaluation round (2003–2006) focused on the detection, seizure, and confiscation of corruption proceeds, as well as the prevention and detection of corruption in public administration and the use of legal persons (corporations, etc.) as corruption shields. The third evaluation round (which began in January 2007) focuses on (a) incriminations under the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and (b) party finance transparency.
Over the past decade, the Council of Europe’s effort against corruption has been defined by strong political will among member states, resulting in the approval of a set of comprehensive standard-setting tools and the development of an efficient monitoring agency.
Since 1981, when the Committee of Ministers proposed that measures be taken against economic crime (including, among other things, bribery) (Recommendation No. R (81) 12), several milestones have marked the progress of this activity. The Ministers of Justice of the Council of Europe (19th Conference, Valletta) decided in 1994 that corruption should be handled at the European level because it constitutes a severe threat to democratic institutions’ stability. The Council of Europe was called upon to respond to the threat as the preeminent European institution safeguarding democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. The Ministers were convinced that an effective fight against corruption required a broad approach and recommended the formation of a Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC) to prepare a comprehensive anti-corruption program and to investigate the possibility of drafting legal instruments in this area, emphasizing the importance of developing a follow-up mechanism to put the program into action.