Why corruption matters in the EU elections

Why corruption matters in the EU elections

What voters should know as they head to the polls

Over the next four days, citizens from 28 countries across the European Union (EU) will cast their vote in one of the largest democratic elections worldwide.

With 751 seats at stake in the European Parliament and each Member of Parliament (MEP) poised to serve a five-year term, there’s a lot riding on these elections.

Here's why your vote matters. 

European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium (Image: olrat/iStock)

Tackle corruption, tackle everything

Corruption is a drain on so many issues that EU citizens care deeply about: strong democratic institutions, solid economic investment and jobs, sustainable development, improved security, environmental protection, and more.

While EU countries have a strong history of promoting good governance and anti-corruption reforms, they have a long way to go to earn a top spot as a leader and role model for integrity.

Need proof? Look no further than this week’s latest scandal from Austria surrounding former Vice Chancellor Strache, which is just one of many examples of how across the EU politicians can easily become involved in corrupt deals.  

But citizens are starting to catch on.

According to a 2016 survey of EU citizens, more than a quarter thought that most or all their national MPs were involved in corruption. This is despite top scores that several EU countries receive on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which doesn’t measure corruption related to money laundering or financial secrecy.

If the EU could tackle corruption in all its many forms, it could significantly improve the lives of the majority of citizens in member states and advance the issues they care most about.

Democratic institutions & rule of law are under threat

The fact that so many people in the EU believe politicians are involved in corruption has a down side.

If recent headlines have made one thing clear, it’s that the democratic norms and institutions that we often take for granted across the EU are currently at risk as people feel disenchanted with traditional politics and traditional political parties.

This failure of politicians has resulted in the rise of authoritarian or populist leaders that are very effective in harnessing a growing cynicism among citizens with promises to end corruption.

Look no further than the Czech Republic and the populist government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The current government rose to power partly on the back of people’s disenchantment over corruption, yet the Prime Minister is currently embroiled in a beneficial ownership scandal involving millions euros of EU agricultural subsidies.

The Czech Republic is not unique.

From a startling move to weaken independent courts in both Poland and Hungary, to state-sponsored intimidation of civil society in Hungary, to the murder of investigative journalists reporting on anti-corruption issues in Malta and Slovakia, the EU is at a critical tipping point.

Either the EU can work to restore the rule of law across the region with more robust monitoring, a greater ability to suspend EU funding when necessary, and stronger whistle blower protections, or it risks a backsliding of democratic institutions as seen in many other parts of the globe. 

Dirty money will continue to flow if unchecked

Is $230 billion dollars a large enough price tag to convince EU politicians to crack down on money laundering and the banks that keep the launderers in business?

Lessons from the Danske Bank scandal, one of the largest money laundering schemes in the history of the world, continue to highlight an urgent need for more robust regulations.

But it’s not just banks that need regulating. Some EU governments create a thriving business by catering directly to individuals who launder money.

If you have enough cash, many EU countries are more than happy to sell citizenship or residence through “golden visas” in exchange for foreign investment. And it’s all perfectly legal.

We’re calling on the EU to do more to prevent corrupt individuals and their money from entering the EU. One way to do this is to ban human rights abusers and corrupt officials from entering the EU in the first place and allowing for greater authority to freeze their assets.

Here's how you can help. 

Outside European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium (Image: olrat/iStock)

Ask your MEP to take the pledge

No matter who you vote for in this week’s election, be sure to ask your candidates to sign the integrity pledge and commit to three simple actions:

  • Improve transparency. We’re calling on MPs to publish details on the use of their allowances, only meet with registered lobbyists and make those meetings available online.
  • Create an ethics body. We’re advocating for MPs to support an independent institution to oversee ethics issues and monitor conflicts of interest, lobbying transparency and “revolving door” issues.
  • Take a break from lobbying. We urge MPs to agree to a “cooling off” period after leaving office and before working for an organisation or company that lobbies Parliament.

So far, more than 500 candidates have signed the pledge, including 15 leading party candidates or “spitzenkandidaten”. For more details, read the full campaign story.

Here are the candidates who signed so far







Image: MarcBruxelle/iStock

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org


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