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“Frying big fish insufficient to tackle EU corruption,” anti-corruption NGO says

Root and branch structural reform called for

Transparency International has welcomed the resignation of the EU Commission but has called for a sweeping review of the European Union's anti-corruption system. "The EU as well as the IOC corruption scandals show that the issue of corruption has finally aroused European public indignation," said the chairman of the international anti-corruption organisation, Dr Peter Eigen.

Corruption can no longer be viewed as being simply a problem of the South and East, and which has long been fuelled by the activities of Western European exporters but is a problem, too, at the very heart of Western Europe. "Having systematically fed the monster for generations, Europe is now falling victim to it," Eigen said.

The EU Commission has correctly insisted that the candidates for EU membership effectively tackle their own corruption problem. For this request to be credible, the EU must ask itself whether its own integrity system is sound and viable.

"Frying 'big fish' is a necessary start, but is only a beginning," Eigen said. "The real challenge is to focus on the structural issues which gave rise to the present scandals. We must now tackle a root and branch overhaul of the EU's structures so as to render an increasingly powerful and influential Commission fully transparent and accountable to the elected parliament, which alone has the legitimacy of being directly elected by the people. The European Parliament must be strengthened as the guardian of transparency and accountability and there must be an ethos of openness and freedom of information," he continued.

"The introduction of legally binding codes of conduct for EU Commissioners and the establishment of a whistleblower protection system are absolutely indispensable," said Eigen. He cited the case of Paul van Buitenen, whose revelations of mismanagement and corruption had helped trigger the recent scandal. Eigen called for a full investigation into the propriety of disciplining a civil servant who so clearly acted in the public interest.

"Any public institution that fails to protect those civil servants who in good faith and for just cause promote the public interest ultimately fails to protect itself and so has to weather the storm," he concluded.

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