Photo by Phil Long via Flickr

Business and civil society representatives call for urgent action on corruption in the EU

Alex Johnson
17 September, 2015
Press Release

Transparency International welcomes the call from representatives of employers, unions and civil society for a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption in the EU.

The opinion adopted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today highlights concerns about illicit financial flows across EU borders and calls on governments to create public registers of corporate ownership (”beneficial ownership”) [1]. The Committee further recommends that EU money should not be made available to those companies that refuse to reveal their ultimate, beneficial owners, and that multinational companies should  be required to disclose key financial information (such as taxes paid) in each country where they operate.

The latter proposal will be the subject of negotiations between the European Parliament and national governments starting later this month [2].

The Committee also highlights the need for EU institutions to be a beacon of transparency, accountability and integrity and recommends the creation of a “legislative footprint” – a detailed record of all input by lobbyists – for all EU legislation.

The full set of recommendations are available here.

Today’s vote shows that all sectors of society – business, workers and civil society – are affected by corruption and believe that the EU is not doing enough to tackle it”, said Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU. “This opinion is a blueprint for comprehensive action and we look forward to the response of the European Commission and European Parliament to the concrete measures proposed”.

The European Commission that took office in November 2014 has yet to propose any new initiatives in this area, despite the “breathtaking” levels of corruption described in a Commission report published in February 2014 [2]. A follow-up report on corruption in the EU is due to be published in early 2016.

Editors’ notes:

[1] Reforms to the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive enacted in May 2015 requires EU Member States to establish registers of beneficial ownership of companies, but stopped short of requiring them to be fully open to the public. EU national governments will decide in the next 18 months whether the data in the registers will be open to public scrutiny.

[2] In July 2015, the European Parliament agreed on amendments to the Shareholders’ Rights Directive that would require multinational companies based in the EU to disclose revenues, taxes paid, pre-tax profits, staff numbers and government subsidies in every country where they operate (on a “country-by-country basis”). The amendments will need to be agreed by a majority of EU Member States before becoming law.

[3] The EU anti-corruption report was published on 3 February 2014. The former Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom described the contents as “breathtaking” in an article published the same day.


Related Projects

Enhancing beneficial ownership transparency

The ‘Panama Papers’ of 2016 were a widely discussed phenomenon. But, what did they actually tell us that we didn’t already know? That the global financial system is plagued by shady practices and secrecy? This is a well-known tale.

Integrity Watch

EU Integrity Watch is a central hub of online tools that allow citizens, journalists and civil society to monitor the integrity of decisions made by politicians in the EU

Want to know more? Get in touch