Council of Europe anti-corruption group offers praise and criticism

Council of Europe press release —  In two reports published on 1st March, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) mixed praise with criticism regarding Greek efforts to fight corruption in both the legislative and judicial branches of government.

One of the two reports – Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors – concludes that only six out of 19 previous recommendations have been “dealt with in a satisfactory manner” 

The report praises Greece’s Code of Conduct for members of parliament, which provides for rules relating to conflict of interest and gifts, among others, and includes a supervision and enforcement mechanism by a parliamentary ethics committee and with a range of possible sanctions. GRECO also commends increased transparency and a broadened scope for declaration of MP assets, income and interests, which would remain online until three years after the end of the declarant’s term of office.

But GRECO criticizes other aspects of the Hellenic Parliament with respect to corruption, notably as regards lobbying, and MPs incompatibilities and immunities, where the number of denials to lift parliamentary immunity still outweighs significantly the number of requests approved.

With respect to fighting corruption in courts, no progress has been made to prevent excessive delays in court proceedings and to improve channels for complaints against such undue delays. The report notes that Greece lacks an IT system to support rapid processing of court data.

Among other criticisms, GRECO also found that a recommendation to consolidate the various judicial bodies currently responsible for the career, professional supervision and discipline of judges and prosecutors has not been fulfilled satisfactorily, either.

In a unique publication, also published today, GRECO “re-assesses” Greece’s compliance with a specific recommendation on the transparency of party financing, because of a “clear reversal” of Greek policy with regard to anonymous contributions to political parties.

That previous recommendation had permitted coupon-based donations only if they systematically indicated names and tax identification numbers or identity card numbers of donors. But just two years after banning anonymous donations completely, Greece reintroduced a certain level of anonymity. Concurrently, so-called fund-raising seems to allow for anonymous donations.

“From the outset, GRECO notes that the approach followed in Greece, with multiple, often divergent legal changes within short periods of time, creates an unpredictable legal framework which may result in ineffective implementation and a substantial lack of transparency,” the report states. “Moreover, fund-raising events can add another layer of unidentified donations for a total amount which is even higher than that permitted for anonymous coupons.”

GRECO in June 2015 had recommended that:

  1. legislative drafts including those carrying amendments are processed with an adequate level of transparency and consultation including appropriate timelines allowing for the latter to be effective
  2. (government) (i) swiftly proceeds  with the adoption of a code of conduct
    for members of the parliament and establishing a suitable mechanism within
    Parliament for its promotion, supervision and enforcement and (ii) that the public is
    informed accordingly.
  3. rules be introduced for the ad hoc disclosure when a conflict arises with a parliamentarian’s private interests
  4. adequate and consistent rules be elaborated concerning
    the acceptance by parliamentarians of gifts, hospitality and other advantages
    including special support provided for parliamentary work, and that internal
    procedures for the valuation, reporting and return of unacceptable benefits be
  5. (i) that the implementation of the rules on professional
    eligibility and incompatibilities applicable to parliamentarians is properly assessed
    and that the necessary secondary legislation is introduced accordingly, as already
    foreseen in particular under article 57 paragraph 4 of the Constitution; (ii) that the
    objectives and effectiveness of article 8 of Law 3213/2003 concerning restrictions
    on the involvement of parliamentarians (and other officials concerned) in offshore
    companies be reviewed, in line with the declaratory obligations provided in the
    same law.
  6. the development of rules to prevent the misuse of confidential information in respect of a broader range of subject matters which are not necessarily captured by the criminal offence of divulgation of State secrets.
  7. the introduction of rules on how members of parliament
    engage with lobbyists and other third parties who seek to influence the
    parliamentary process.
  8. the system of declaration of assets, income and
    interests is reviewed so that all pertinent information is adequately reflected,
    including on debts and liabilities, and to ensure that declarations are accessible to
    the public conveniently and for an adequate period of time.
  9. that the newly established Committee for the Investigation of
    Declarations of Assets (CIDA) becomes operational as soon as possible and is
    provided with all the means necessary to perform its tasks effectively and proactively,
    and that it reports periodically and publicly about the results of its activity.
  10. that determined measures be taken in order to ensure that the procedures to lift the immunity of parliamentarians do not hamper or prevent criminal proceedings in respect of members of parliament suspected of having committed corruption related offences, notably by defining clear rules and criteria in that area.
  11. as part of a proclaimed integrity policy, efficient internal
    mechanisms be developed to promote, raise awareness of, and thereby safeguard,
    integrity in Parliament in a collective effort (e.g. training, discussions on ethics and
    integrity, awareness of bribery and other corruption-related offences) and on an
    individual basis through confidential counselling in problematic situations.
  12. (the government)(i) revises the method of selection concerning the most
    senior positions of judges and prosecutors so as to involve the peers in the process
    and (ii) to consider amending the modalities for the initiation of disciplinary
    proceedings in their respect.
  13. (i) that procedural rules provide for further guarantees
    against delays before the stage of the decision and that channels for complaints
    against undue delays be clarified, streamlined and properly communicated to the
    public; (ii) that the role of judges and prosecutors with managerial functions be
    strengthened as regards caseload management.
  14. that a set of clear standards of professional conduct and
    integrity, accompanied by explanatory comments and/or practical examples be
    introduced for judges and prosecutors.
  15. consideration be given to consolidating the various judicial bodies currently responsible for the career, professional supervision and discipline of judges and prosecutors
  16. periodic public reports be introduced on the functioning of the courts and the prosecution service, which would include adequate statistical data, information and analyses concerning in particular the management of the workload and disciplinary cases.
  17. training and awareness be developed on integrity related issues both in the context of initial and of on-going training for judges and prosecutors.
  18. precise case management rules be drafted and applied consistently within the prosecution services, including criteria for the assignment and withdrawal of a case.
  19. procedures involving the special court of article 86 of the Constitution be amended so that they do not hamper or prevent criminal proceedings in respect of serving and former members of government.

In view of the foregoing, GRECO concludes that Greece has implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner six of the nineteen recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report. Of the remaining recommendations, seven have been partly implemented and six have not been implemented.

More specifically, recommendations ii, iii, vi, viii and ix have been satisfactorily
implemented, recommendation xviii has been dealt with in a satisfactory manner,
recommendations i, iv, v, vii, xi, xvi and xvii have been partly implemented and
recommendations x, xii, xiii, xiv, xv and xix have not been implemented.

Full report here