In its evaluation report published last August, GRECO urges the Slovak Republic to strengthen the effectiveness of its legal framework and policies to prevent corruption amongst persons with top executive functions (ministers and other senior government officials) and the police force.
The report was prepared against the backdrop of repeated mass demonstrations demanding stronger integrity of politicians and the police in the wake of the murder of a journalist who was investigating corruption links between the political world and criminal networks.
According to GRECO, there are currently a number of systemic weaknesses that need urgent attention to bolster corruption prevention in Government. An important qualitative step would be the adoption of an action plan targeting corruption risks specific to government work. This should go hand in hand with laying down clear integrity standards and rules for ministers, state secretaries, political advisers and senior officials, in the form of an enforceable, well-publicised code of conduct.
GRECO also puts strong emphasis on the crying need for increased transparency concerning top persons in government in order to significantly improve accountability to the people. That is particularly true in several respects: contacts with lobbyists should be put on record and published; all gifts should be duly registered and made public; and more detailed information should be made available to the public concerning asset and interest declarations.
In order to address effectively highly latent corruption problems within the police, GRECO stresses that prevention efforts must truly be stepped up, starting with the drafting of an operational action plan, identifying risk-prone areas and emerging trends. Another key aspect is the revision of the existing Code of Ethics for the Police Force, to go beyond a catalogue of principles and to supplement it with a practical manual providing real-life examples, forming the foundation of police training. Decisive steps must also be taken to ensure that the protection of whistleblowers from within the police becomes really effective in practice so as encourage the reporting of corrupt misconduct, currently inexistent.
GRECO also considers that a number of areas require more stringent rules to boost prevention within the police. This includes stronger security vetting of police members not only upon recruitment but also crucially throughout their career. Further safeguards should also be in place to guarantee that police misconduct is properly investigated, with a sufficient level of transparency so as to gain public trust.
One excerpt of the August 19th evaluation :
« Slovakia has reportedly the highest irregularity and fraud detection rates of EU Member Statesregarding the use of EU funds.12By way of example, two former ministers were convicted in a final judgment for having wilfully disrespected rules on calls for tenders for the attribution of EU funds (see para.146).13In another case dating back to 2017, the then Minister of Education resigned owing to suspicionsof bribery at the ministry in connection with the allocation of EU funds for research and development, owing to non-transparent procedures resulting in funds being attributed to companies with no records in the field of research or education. This led to the minister having to step down and the allocations of funds being nullified. »
EU becomes observer to anti-corruption body GRECO
The Committee of Ministers representing the 47 member states of the Council of Europe has adopted a decision accepting a request by the European Union to become an observer with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
Welcoming this decision, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, said: “This is another example of good co-operation between the European Union and the Council of Europe. Working together to protect the rule of law and to prevent corruption, our actions will be more effective and we will have a greater impact.”
The First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, said: “The European Union’s participation in the GRECO as an observer brings the European Union and the Council of Europe closer and reinforces our joint efforts to strengthen the rule of law and fight against corruption across Europe. It is very fitting for this to happen in the year in which GRECO celebrates its 20th anniversary”.
The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is the Council of Europe anti-corruption body. It aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards. GRECO helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. It comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus and the United States of America.
The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) was established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor States’ compliance with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards.
GRECO’s objective is to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with Council of Europe anti-corruption standards through a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. It helps to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. GRECO also provides a platform for the sharing of best practice in the prevention and detection of corruption.
Membership in GRECO, which is an enlarged agreement, is not limited to Council of Europe member States. Any State which took part in the elaboration of the enlarged partial agreement, may join by notifying the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Moreover, any State which becomes Party to the Criminal or Civil Law Conventions on Corruption automatically accedes to GRECO and its evaluation procedures. Currently, GRECO comprises 49 member States (48 European States and the United States of America).
The functioning of GRECO is governed by its Statute and Rules of Procedure. Each member State appoints up to two representatives who participate in GRECO plenary meetings with a right to vote; each member also provides GRECO with a list of experts available for taking part in GRECO’s evaluations. Other Council of Europe bodies may also appoint representatives (e.g. the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe). GRECO has granted observer status to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations – represented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). GRECO elects its President, Vice-President and members of its Bureau who play an important role in designing GRECO’s work programme and supervising the evaluation procedures.
GRECO’s Statutory Committee is composed of representatives on the Committee of Ministers of member States which have joined GRECO and of representatives specifically designated by other members of GRECO. It is competent for adopting GRECO’s budget. It is also empowered to issue a public statement if it considers that a member takes insufficient action in respect of the recommendations addressed to it.
GRECO’s Statute defines a master-type procedure, which can be adapted to the different legal instruments under review (see “How does GRECO work”).
GRECO, which has its seat in Strasbourg, is assisted by a Secretariat, headed by an Executive Secretary, provided by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.