Source: EC Rule of Law Report 2021

The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI shows that EU Member States continue to be among the world’s best performers.

  1. Ten Member States are in the top twenty of the countries perceived as least corrupt in the world .
  2. Six Member States (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg) score above 80/100 on the index)
  3. Five Member States (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Ireland and France) score above 69/100.
  4. Some Member States, while remaining below the EU average (63/100), have improved their scores over the last five years (Spain, Italy and Greece).
  5. Some others have registered a significant deterioration in perceived corruption levels (Poland, Malta and Hungary)


The implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy is ongoing but some delays have been reported due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigations into high level political corruption have intensified following recent political scandals. However, prosecutors working on these cases have faced negative narratives from politicians. Reporting obligations for the specialised prosecution service are burdensome, leading to delays with a negative impact on the effectiveness of anti-corruption investigations, but recent amendments aim to reduce the reporting burden. New measures to prevent corruption of civil servants and top executive functions have been introduced, but measures to effectively address integrity risks for parliamentarians remain limited, with no obligation to disclose assets, interests, debts and liabilities. Though a legal framework on lobbying exists, its scope and information publically available remain limited. The control of political party financing remains a concern.


Measures to prevent corruption are generally in place. However, shortcomings remain as regards the prevention of conflict of interest for Ministers and their advisors, the transparency of asset disclosure, as well as lobbying activities. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the investigation of corruption. Anti-corruption preventive measures are coordinated by several networks and cooperation platforms at the federal level. The agreement to increase the budget of the judiciary, of the federal police and of the security services is a positive element that is expected to strengthen the fight against corruption. Several reflections are ongoing to propose potential new rules to strengthen the anticorruption framework. No comprehensive regulation on whistleblowers protection has been introduced.


The implementation of the institutional reforms on anti-corruption has been consolidated. The new anti-corruption strategy for the period 2021-2027 was approved, with a new set of priorities, namely strengthening capacity to combat corruption; increasing accountability of local authorities; and creating an environment against corruption capable of timely responses. Significant challenges remain concerning the effectiveness of measures related to the integrity of public administration, lobbying and whistleblowing protection, where no dedicated regulation exists. Despite the increased investigative activity and the reinforcement of resources, final convictions for high-profile cases of corruption remains low and a solid track-record of final convictions remains to be established in this respect.


A new Strategy on the Prevention of Corruption for 2021-2030 is in the public consultation process. As the previous Strategy, the draft proposal of the Strategy also envisages the strengthening the legal framework on prevention of conflict of interest, which is currently being drafted. Codes of Ethics for members of the Government and for members of Parliament are still missing, while “revolving doors” are only partially regulated. Detailed rules on lobbying activities remain to be introduced. While changes to the framework of political immunity of the members of Government were announced, the legislative action has yet to follow. Public procurement procedures remain a high-risk area for corruption, and several cases have been discovered due to reporting by whistleblowers. The prosecution and investigation of high-level corruption continues, but due to protracted proceedings convictions are often delayed.


Cyprus continues to improve its legislative framework to combat corruption, although a few important reforms remain pending, such as setting up an anticorruption agency, protection of whistleblowers, regulation of lobbying and asset disclosure for elected officials. The Office of Transparency and Prevention of Corruption has been tasked to oversee the implementation of a new anti-corruption plan for 2021-2026. The investigation of corruption cases continued, with the manipulation of sports competition standing out as a particular risk area, although adjudication of corruption cases remains low. The Attorney General’s Office received new resources, and an amendment to the Criminal Code increased the sanctions for the crime of abuse in office, triggering the possibility to use special investigation techniques in the investigation of this offence. The Government launched an inquiry into the investor-citizen schemes to respond to allegations of corruption involving foreign individuals and high ranking officials. A new code of conduct focused on anticorruption seeks to improve integrity in the police. During the COVID-19 pandemic, actions launched to provide financial relief were accompanied by measures that sought to mitigate the risk of fraud and corruption.

Czech Republic

While the legal and institutional framework to address corruption is broadly in place, there is a lack of progress in the implementation of the Government Anti-Corruption Strategy 2018- 2022 and accompanying Action Plans. More specifically, at the end of the current Government’s term a number of important reform initiatives in the area of corruption prevention are still pending in the Czech Parliament, including bills on lobbying, on whistleblower protection and on the extension of the Supreme Audit Office’s mandate. As regards high-level corruption, investigations and audits at national and European level of the use of EU funds have recently found evidence of conflicts of interest at the top executive level, on the basis of which a case has been accepted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Furthermore, in a related EU subsidy fraud case, national investigators have recently recommended indictment. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the anti-corruption measures in the healthcare sector that were planned to be introduced in 2020 were postponed.


Denmark continues to be perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the European Union and in the world. The anti-corruption system is to a large extent based on general rules on ethics and integrity, social norms and public scrutiny. Challenges identified regarding the implementation of international recommendations regarding the anti-corruption framework remain. While civil servants are subject to comprehensive ethical standards and conflict of interest rules, the framework applicable to ministers and top executives remain narrow in scope. Revolving doors and lobbying activities remain unregulated. A new mechanism to protect whistleblowers in the state administration has been introduced. A new National Investigative Unit for serious crime will be set up in early 2022 and will bring under the same roof prosecutors and investigators aiming to achieve a more efficient and coordinated approach to serious crime.


The anti-corruption strategic framework has been further developed since last year’s report with a new National Action Plan for 2021-2025, which was adopted by the Government in 2021. The Action Plan strengthens the involvement of ministries in the coordination and implementation of anti-corruption measures and develops civil society’s engagement in addressing anti-corruption issues. As regards the prosecution of corruption, the criminal justice system has proven its effectiveness in identifying high-level corruption cases. Measures to strengthen the preventive side include new non-binding guidelines for lobbying and conflict of interests, although these lack clear implementing provisions. The legislative procedure to adopt comprehensive rules on whistleblowers protection is currently ongoing and it is expected to be finalised by the end of this year. The asset declaration system was updated to oblige ministers’ political advisers to submit a declaration of financial interests. In addition, the Government has announced its intention to strengthen the political party financing framework.


Finland continues to be perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the EU and the world. A dedicated comprehensive Government strategy to fight corruption was adopted on 27 May 2021. The Strategy aims to strengthen the fight against corruption, including through the clarification of responsibilities, awareness raising and prevention, the improvement of transparency and of the effectiveness of anti-corruption legislation, as well as relevant research. While the authorities place a strong emphasis on fighting financial crime and have taken steps to address foreign bribery, detection and prosecution of the latter remains a challenge. Lobbying remains currently unregulated, however, the Government is drafting legislation that would provide for a transparency register. Legislative initiatives are also being discussed to address concerns over revolving doors between the public administration and private interests. A revised system for asset declaration for public officials is under discussion and the proposal to regulate whistleblower protection in a new standalone law is expected to enter into force by the end of 2021.


France has continued to strengthen its institutional framework for fighting and preventing corruption in the public and private sector. The specialised anti-corruption institutions, such as the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life and the French Anti-corruption Agency, continue to perform their duties. Regulations for conflict of interest and the protection of whistleblowers are in place. While the lobbying legislation in place does not cover individuals initiating contact with senior officials, the Government has not put forward any proposal to this end yet. Assets declarations are disclosed and regularly verified. The National Financial Prosecutor was reorganised, and continues to show a robust record of convictions, also through public interest judicial agreements, including for high-rank officials and large-value cases. The human resources of the National Commission on Campaign Accounts and Political Financing appear insufficient compared to its workload. Specific public procurement actions were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The strategic response to corruption prevention saw further positive developments, complementing the anti-corruption framework already in place. Germany is modernising its strategic framework for the prevention of corruption in the federal administration. A new law introduces a lobby register by January 2022, not envisaging, however, a ‘legislative footprint’. Shortcomings remain in the regulation of secondary activities of parliamentarians and in the rules on asset disclosures, although some improvements are underway. Political party financing rules contain some legal gaps, including on sponsoring, while ceilings for donations are considered too high. The financial damage of corruption decreased significantly with classical cash bribery on the decline. Other forms of non-monetary bribery such as free event tickets and potential undue influence through private dinners for business and politics are coming into focus. Germany leads globally in the prosecution of individuals who commit foreign bribery, but there is no legal provision for criminal liability of companies.


A wide range of anti-corruption reforms that Greece has embarked on in the past years is being taken forward. The 2019 Constitutional review of the immunity regime for members of the Parliament and Ministers resulted in an extension of the statutory limit for investigations, and immunities have started to be lifted in some corruption cases, ending an important obstacle to the prosecution of high-level corruption. However, some practical issues remain, notably as regards resources for investigating corruption and delays in the management of court files. Legislative gaps have not yet been filled concerning the regulation of lobbying. Significant shortcomings remain in the effective oversight, in particular due to the division among four oversight bodies, and in the follow-up of the provisions concerning asset disclosures, conflicts of interest and party financing. While asset declarations from members of the Parliament and the Government are made public, this is done in a non-machine readable format and the reports on the outcome of the checks and on possible breaches or sanctioning procedures remain unavailable to the public.


The implementation of the anti-corruption strategy is ongoing but its scope remains limited. Shortcomings persist as regards political party financing, lobbying and ‘revolving doors’. Risks of clientelism, favouritism and nepotism in high-level public administration as well as risks arising from the link between businesses and political actors remain unaddressed. Independent control mechanisms remain insufficient for detecting corruption. Concerns remain regarding the lack of systematic checks and insufficient oversight of asset and interest declarations. New criminal law provisions aim to address foreign bribery and informal payments in healthcare. While the indictment rate for corruption cases is high, and some new high-level corruption cases were opened since 2020, the track record for investigations of allegations concerning high-level officials and their immediate circle remains limited.


Ireland is extensively reviewing its anti-corruption and anti-fraud structures as well as its strategies to prevent, investigate and adjudicate economic crimes and corruption. The Government has committed itself to introduce new anti-corruption and anti-fraud structures, new legislation to provide for preliminary trial hearings, and to amend the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018. Key challenges in Ireland’s capacity to deter and punish corruption remain due to limited resources and institutional fragmentation. Prevention of corruption and promotion of integrity measures are in place, but challenges remain as regards enforcement, in particular on asset disclosure, lobbying and revolving doors. Concerns have been raised that the Standards in Public Office Commission, as the supervisory authority managing the disclosure of interests and tax clearance regimes of the public office holders, may not be adequately resourced. A capacity review is planned to examine the issue.


Italy continues strengthening its legislative framework to fight corruption and corruption related crimes. Cooperation, specialisation and resources for investigators and prosecutors of corruption and corruption-related crimes are generally considered sufficient to repress corruption, including high-level corruption. A lack of resources and limited experience and legal expertise affect the capacity of law enforcement authorities to pursue and prosecute foreign bribery effectively. Excessive disposition time, in particular at the appeal level, continues to constitute an obstacle to the fight against corruption, and comprehensive reforms to streamline criminal procedures are still pending in Parliament. Several legislative proposals and amendments to strengthen preventative measures against corruption are pending, including on conflicts of interest, lobbying and ’revolving doors’. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the risk of corruption and corruption-related crimes being committed to further infiltrate the legal economy of Italy.


The legislative reforms adopted by Latvia to strengthen the effectiveness of the anticorruption framework remain to be fully implemented. Legislation criminalises the offences of abuse of office, domestic and foreign bribery, and trading in influence. A new Action Plan to prevent corruption is under preparation. The investigation and prosecution of corruption related offences continues to be a shared task among different authorities. Measures were taken to increase the capacity of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to investigate corruption cases. Work on the integrity framework for the prevention of conflicts of interest continued, but the provisions regulating “revolving doors” and post-employment restrictions remain limited. Lobbying remains unregulated, while the draft legislation continues to be discussed by the Parliament. The State Audit Office audited more than 90% of the funding spent in 2020 for COVID-19 related support measures.


On 4 November 2020, the new anti-corruption action plan 2020-2022 was adopted with the aim of improving the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Programme. Asset disclosure now has a more efficient and effective regulation and updated rules on lobbying activities aiming at ensuring more transparency and publicity of meetings between elected officials and lobbyists are in force since January 2021. The implementation of the revised legal framework on revolving doors and cooling off periods has started after their approval in July 2020. Whistleblowers protection provisions are in place and the prosecution office is raising awareness to promote the use of reporting channels. Several high-level corruption cases were investigated or brought to court. The public procurement legal framework has been improved to prevent frauds and corruption risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, recommendations and guidance for improving transparency and reducing corruption risks in the implementation of the COVID-19 economic relief plan were issued by the Special Investigations Service.


The Government is currently assessing the need to strengthen anti-corruption rules, its main focus being on corruption prevention. A code of conduct for members of the Parliament partially regulates lobbying activities but shortcomings remain as to the overall consistency and implementation. Room for improvement remains with regard to revolving doors, as specific provisions exist only for members of the Government. This has also been underlined by the Ethics Committee which is an external monitoring body. The political party financing regulation has been revised to ensure more transparency. Legislation to protect whistleblowers remains to be introduced, but specific reporting channels exist within the Grand Ducal Police. In the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Ducal Police addressed a reminder of the applicable ethical principles to all law enforcement officials after identifying potential corruption risks during the pandemic.


A new targeted anti-fraud and corruption strategy was approved by the Government. While investigative and prosecution bodies have improved their capacity to deal with corruption cases, as shown by an increase in the number of cases opened, investigations continue to be lengthy depending on their complexity and a track record of convictions in high-level cases remains to be established. The reforms concerning the appointment of the Police Commissioner and of the Commissioners of the Permanent Commission against Corruption, as well as the reorganised cooperation between the Police and the Attorney General, are recent and results are yet to be seen. Concerning the rules on integrity for public officials, including members of Parliament and ministers, further changes are envisaged. Specific guidance has been put in place to mitigate the risks of corruption in public procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic.


As last year, the Netherlands continues to be perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the EU and the world. Integrity is a key component of the framework governing the public administration. In 2020, an extensive programme on combating subversive organised crime was launched, including a holistic approach to prevent, detect and sanction corruption, after investigations showed that criminals are actively looking to exercise undue influence on civil servants. The capacity of the National Police Internal Investigations Department and of the prosecution service has been strengthened through additional funding. New legislation extending screening of police officers and external consultants was adopted in October 2020. Further legislation to strengthen the integrity of elected and appointed officials is foreseen to be implemented by March 2022. Concerns remain as regards the integrity framework applicable to top executive functions within the public sector as well as regards lobbying, revolving doors and the transparency of political party financing.


The legal and institutional framework to prevent and combat corruption is largely in place. Yet, there are risks as regards the effectiveness of the fight against high-level corruption, including a risk of undue influence on corruption prosecutions for political purposes. In this context, concerns remain over the independence of the main institutions responsible for the prevention and fight against corruption, considering in particular the subordination of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau to the executive and the fact that the Minister of Justice is also the Prosecutor-General. The dedicated government anti-corruption programme was implemented in the years 2018-2020, yet key legislative tasks remain unfinished. Structural weaknesses continue to exist as regards the asset declaration system and lobbying.


The Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2020-2024, approved by the Government, is awaiting a vote in the Parliament. It aims at answering a long-standing need to create a robust anti-corruption framework. The Government has proposed measures to ensure a more efficient treatment of complex corruption cases. While the efforts to improve the track record of investigations and prosecutions of corruption continue, prosecution authorities consider the lack of resources for police and prosecution to be a concern. A new amendment completed the 2019 reform of the asset declaration system, but the Transparency Entity mandated to verify disclosures is not yet operational. While revolving doors rules updated in 2019 still need to be implemented, new lobbying legislation is under discussion in Parliament and there are plans to revise the whistleblower legislation. Resources attributed to the Council for Prevention of Corruption remain limited. An Anti-Corruption Mechanism has been created to contribute to the prevention capacity. Corruption risks, including conflicts of interest, under the COVID-19 pandemic, have been the subject of several recommendations at national level.


The institutional framework to combat corruption is comprehensive, but its effectiveness will require sustained political will as committed by the Government. The adoption of a new Anticorruption Strategy for 2021-2025 is a key priority. The effectiveness of the investigation and sanctioning of medium and high-level corruption has improved, confirming the previous track-record. The National Anti-Corruption Directorate has achieved better results, though the 2017-2019 amendments to the justice laws continue representing a major impediment to its good functioning. Amendments to the criminal codes remain necessary. In the absence of solid legislative and policy solutions to Constitutional Court decisions, there are increased obstacles and legal uncertainty for the fight against corruption. Increased institutional cooperation in the context of the elections in 2020 could mark a change of approach on the integrity for elected officials. The Agency for the Management of Seized Assets remains fully operational and the PREVENT electronic system on conflict of interests is effective.


The legal and institutional framework for preventing and fighting corruption continues to improve. Legislative amendments have improved the independence, organisation and functioning of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption although its human resources remain limited. The same amendments have also strengthened the legal framework on lobbying, protection of whistleblowers and declaration of assets. Nevertheless, concerns remain over the effective enforcement of the anti-corruption rules, e.g. on conflict of interest and whistleblowers. Furthermore, the previous strategy has largely been implemented but some actions remain pending and no new plan has been adopted. Although the number of prosecutions has increased, challenges remain, notably as regards the capacity for effective investigations, and the low number of convictions for corruption cases, especially for high level instances. A series of risk-assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic were launched by the Government, particularly concerning the risk of corruption in public procurement.


Slovakia’s efforts to repress corruption have significantly increased and show effect with a number of high-level corruption cases being investigated and prosecuted. Leading officials were also selected and appointed, including the Head of the new Whistleblower Protection Office, that will take up its functions as of 1 September 2021. The capacity to detect and investigate corruption offences can still be strengthened by investments in specialisation, dedicated analytical expertise and integrity trainings for the National Crime Agency. There is slow progress in preventing corruption. Several attempts to regulate lobbying have so far failed. However, draft legislation on lobbying, ’revolving doors’, asset declarations, conflicts of interest of members of Parliament and public procurement are planned or at the initial stage.


Spain continues improving the institutional and legal framework to prevent and combat corruption. Anti-corruption measures follow a strategic line of action but there is not a dedicated anti-corruption strategy that would guide preventive and repressive measures to fight corruption in a comprehensive manner. As regards the repression of corruption, corruption is criminalised under the Criminal Code and a number of dedicated institutions are in place. Prosecution authorities note that the lack of adequate resources affects the speed of the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, including high-level corruption cases. As regards the prevention of corruption, Spain continues to improve its integrity framework and has committed to develop legislation on key areas including lobbying transparency, a Code of Ethics for civil servants, and the protection of whistleblowers. The new code of conduct for all members of Congress and Senate was adopted in October 2020, and a new Parliamentary Office for Conflicts of Interest monitors the parliamentarians’ compliance.


As in previous years, Sweden’s perceived corruption levels are among the lowest in the EU and the world. Transparency is the cornerstone of Sweden’s anti-corruption approach. In 2020, Sweden adopted its first strategic National Action Plan to prevent corruption in its public administration. Among others, it prescribes the systematic use of corruption risk analysis to strengthen corruption risk awareness and risk management practices among public officials. Although this action plan is seen as an important step, it lacks concrete actions and a time plan and it was subject to only limited consultation among relevant stakeholders. Additional prevention initiatives have been undertaken in the reporting period, including the extension of revolving doors rules to top executives of the National Audit Office, and new guidelines for public officials to declare their assets. Lobbying continues to be unregulated and there is no consistent practice to publicly disclose those that seek to influence specific legislative proposals (‘legislative footprints’). Foreign bribery remains a risk area where only moderate levels of prosecution are seen.

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