Out-Law News 1 min. read

European Commission to introduce stronger rules against corruption

The European Commission has proposed new rules to fight corruption in the EU and worldwide.

The Commission said it intends to "integrate the prevention of corruption into the design of EU policies and programs" and support member states in putting in place stronger anti-corruption policies and legislation.

On 3 May, the Commission presented a proposal for a new anti-corruption directive.

The directive contains new and strengthened rules criminalising corruption offences and harmonising penalties across the EU.

Among other matters, the proposal aims to harmonise definitions of criminal offences prosecuted as corruption throughout the EU. Under the envisaged new rules, corruption would cover not only bribery but also misappropriation, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and obstruction of justice and illicit enrichment related to corruption offences.

Sanctions for individuals and organisations found guilty of corruption would be increased under the new draft rules. Aggravating and mitigating circumstances will be harmonised.

The Commission also intends to strengthen the enforcement of anti-corruption-rules by setting up specialised anti-corruption bodies with adequate resources and training. Enforcement would also be improved by obliging member states to introduce appropriate investigative tools for law enforcement and prosecutors. If the rules were to enter into force, member states would also have to make sure that during corruption investigations, immunity of state representatives can be lifted "through an effective and transparent process pre-established by law".

The Commission plans to introduce particularly strong anti-corruption rules for the EU's public sector. The proposal contains an obligation for EU member states to adopt effective rules on open access to information of public interest, and the disclosure and management of conflicts of interests in the public sector. Member states will also have to introduce effective rules on the disclosure and verification of assets of public officials and the interaction between the private and the public sector.

"Anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) laws aim to create a 'level playing field' for business competition. If enacted as proposed, the directive will obviously have a significant impact on sentencing corporate crimes and enforcing ABC laws across EU member states in a more uniform way," said Eike Grunert, global investigations and compliance expert at Pinsent Masons. "Business are well advised to monitor this development closely, and brush-up their ABC compliance measures where needed.”

As a next step, the European Parliament and the Council will negotiate the Commission's proposal. 

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