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EU Implementation of Anti-Corruption Treaties Insufficient, New Report Argues

03 February 2017

International law on fighting corruption is underutilized by  European Union member states. It can and should play a more important role in tackling corruption involving both Russia and EU countries. This is the central thesis of the latest report by the Expert Group on Transborder Corruption of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Failed in Action; Why European Law Enforcers Are Unable to Tackle EU-Russian Transborder Corruption.

The report was launched on 3 February 2017. It contains two case studies on transborder corruption. One of these gives a history, updated up to January 2017, of the French company Vinci obtaining a highly lucrative contract to build a motorway from Moscow to St Petersburg. The construction started in 2010 and entailed deforestation near Khimki, close to Moscow, leading to large scale environmental protests. Allegations that Vinci had engaged in corruption to provide kickbacks to influential Russian counterparts also soon materialized. These are now under investigation by the French prosecution service, after a lot of information had been dug up by French and Russian environmental and anti-corruption activists.

The second case study presents information on the dealings of Russian ambassadors and their families in real estate in Bulgaria. Buying and selling of properties seems to be closely linked to companies in the Bulgarian energy sector, and the amounts involved cannot have been obtained from an ordinary ambassador’s income.

Two further pieces in the report analyze why the response by law enforcement authorities to corruption allegations falls short. A number of international treaties have been created in the last decades, some of which have been almost universally ratified. States can, however, choose to opt out of important provisions when they ratify the treaties. As it does not directly affect security and justice in their own country, activity of law enforcement and prosecution bodies on cases of corruption in other countries seem to be easily deprioritized. Once they do become active, legal investigations are hampered by the assumption that authorities in all countries involved will, on the basis of the international conventions, cooperate in good faith in all investigations.

The Expert Group on Transborder Corruption of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was established in 2014 to document and look into civil society efforts to fight corrupt practices that involve actors from both EU member states and Russia. The February 2017 report is the third one issued by the group.