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ITCO, UNODC and GRECO say to European Commission: Open Up !

Strasbourg, 14 December 2016

Today, representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe and the transparency intergroup of the European Parliament (ITCO) appeal on the European Commission to finally start reporting about its anti-corruption policies.

Co-chair of the ITCO-intergroup, Dennis de Jong: ́ We were told by the European Commission that early this year, the European Parliament would receive its second anti-corruption report. In the meantime, all we received was a disappointing letter from Vice-President Timmermans that the report would be submitted in due course and that it would not contain a section on the internal anti-corruption policies of the European institutions themselves. I therefore welcome the idea of asking GRECO to submit its evaluation on anti-corruption policies of the EU and its Member States, so that the Commission can finally make some pro gress in this regard ́.

The appeal also addresses the concerns of UNODC and GRECO. De Jong: ́I t is embarrassing that until now the Commission has refrained from participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism under the UN Convention against Corruption, to which the EU is a party. I praise the patience of UNODC and its offer the assist the Commission in this respect. I urge the Commission to step up its efforts and to set the right example to the international community, instead of lagging behind as it did until now. Similarly, the EP should receive as soon as possible a full legal analysis of the obstacles the Commission is facing in becoming a party to the GRECO-mechanism of the Council of Europe. Also in this regard, sw ift progress has to be made ́.

Appeal on European Commission: Open Up!

  1. We are concerned about the lack of progress made by the European Commission in respect of its reporting activities on anti-corruption policies and measures, not only of Member States, but also of the EU-institutions themselves.
  2. We are disappointed that the second anti-corruption report of the European Commission, originally due for early this year, has not come out yet and we call upon the Commission to provide the European Parliament with a comprehensive report, including measures taken by the EU-institutions themselves, without further delay.
  3. We invite the Commission to examine ways to speed up the preparations for EU-membership of GRECO, the Council of Europe ́s mechanism to monitor compliance of its members (including all EU Member States) with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards. Similarly, we call upon the Commission to speed up the preparations for its participation in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). We understand that there may be legal obstacles to overcome, but we demand transparency in this respect and invite the Commission to publish a legal analysis of the problems and possible solutions.
  4. In the meantime, we invite the Commission to explore, together with GRECO, possibilities for developing a pilot project, in which the EU participates, on a purely voluntary basis, in GRECO ́s review process in order to become acquainted with the procedures.
  5. We note that the Commission stated as one of the reasons for not being able to report on anti-corruption policies and measures that it cannot really critically evaluate its own measures. We therefore invite GRECO to offer support in this respect by providing the Commission with a targeted evaluation.
  6. We recall that in its Resolution of 25 October 2016, the European Parliament called upon the Commission to meet its reporting obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to which the EU has become a party, and also to do its utmost to contribute financially to the technical assistance programme of the UN in the context of the Convention.
  7. We welcome the offer made by UNODC to assist the Commission with fulfilling its reporting obligations and with participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UNCAC, so that the Commission could make itself acquainted with the monitoring procedures.
  8. The Members of the European Parliament, participating in the Intergroup Integrity, Transparency, Corruption and Organised Crime stand ready to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the European Commission on all of these issues, together with representatives from the Council of Europe and the UNODC.

Joint appeal of the ITCO intergroup and the UNOCD.

MEP Benedek Jávor’s written statement on the plenary debate of the Energy Winter Package

The Energy Winter Package would have been a unique opportunity to fill with content many of the promises on making the EU number one for renewables and world leader in tackling climate change. I must say: the Commission missed this opportunity. I see a general lack of ambition and the biggest market distortions being left unaddressed in the package.

First, it disregards the Paris agreement and slows down the EU’s efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 C.

It doesn’t address the problems of overcapacity. It doesn’t address the loopholes in the Energy Efficiency Directive. It doesn’t stop backdoor subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear. Instead, it allows financial flows to fossil fuel and protects the privileges of nuclear via capacity markets and the lack of a credible liability regime.

A mere 27% renewable target and the removal of priority access to new RES projects simply puts the brakes on the European energy transition. Governance and transparency about future support schemes are also weakened.

The new biofuels targets leave much room for bioenergy without effective measures to ensure it is sustainable.

This proposal is clearly insufficient and fails to take us to the needed transition in Europe’s energy systems.

EU research grant scheme for investigative journalists – Press release

On 1 December, the European Parliament passed the 2017 budget of the EU. Due to an amendment by MEPs Benedek Jávor (Greens), Helga Trüpel (Greens), Petra Kammerevert (S&D) and Yana Toom (ALDE), it includes a 500.000 euro grant scheme for journalistic investigations into cases affecting at least two EU countries. The grant scheme will be implemented in the next three years as a preparatory action probably by the Leipzig based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, in view of establishing a similar programme permanently. The independence and confidentiality of the proposed investigations will be fully respected.

The EP previously added a similar line to the budget in 2009, but then the programme never took off the ground. MEP Jávor made it one of his priorities to reinstate the programme ever since he took office in 2014, and to uncover the causes of the failure of the first attempt, to make sure that it will not default again.


(Image source: advancingthestory.com)

MEP Benedek Jávor’s written comment to the COP22 debate of the European Parliament

At COP22, parties reaffirmed their collective commitment to implement the Paris Agreement – despite the outcome of the US elections.

Unfortunately, the EU has also failed to put forward any new measures to help close the emission gap and to hold global warming to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1,5°CThus, COP24 in 2018 will be the next moment for countries to increase their ambition and scale up emission reduction pledges and the EU’s leadership is crucial. We must start walking the talk and prioritise energy transition by ramping up our own policies and inadequate climate and energy targets.

To this end, now we need an ambitious energy winter package for 2030 which promotes energy savings and efficiency measures, high renewables penetration as well as proper governance of the Energy Union. However, it seems that ECrather wants to subsidise new fossil fuel capacities and undermine market access for renewables.

The credibility of the EU and our common future is at stake.  We need to take commitments made in Paris seriously:  substantially reducing GHG emissions in the short term and bringing emissions to zero in the longer term –it is our only chance.

Parliament takes step in the right direction

The European Parliament today voted on the 2017 budget and the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), backing several amendments from the Greens/EFA Group.


Among these are the freezing of 20% of the pot in the EU Commission’s budget from which former EU commissioners are paid a transitional allowance for three years: this money will not be released until the EU Commission submits a new code of conduct.


Greens/EFA Group budget spokesperson Indrek Tarand said:


“The European Parliament has taken some steps in the right direction. The majority of MEPs have asked for more money for programmes such as LIFE, Erasmus, and the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. All of these are concrete projects that will benefit EU citizens.


“It is positive that we were able to ensure more money is made available for responding to the major political challenges we face, such as tackling the root causes that force people to flee their countries, and the integration of refugees in EU member states.  But it is clear that the new money is not sufficient. If we really want to fight the root causes of migration, we need to deliver further financial means. The governments of the EU Member States now have a duty to take up the parliament’s demands and make more money available for the EU budget.”


Green transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor added:


“The decision to partially freeze the remuneration of former commissioners is only right and proper given the recent scandals involving ex-Commissioners Kroes and Barroso. The Commission’s ethics system is in need of urgent reform, yet they continue to insist that everything is fine. Now, the European Parliament is using its powers to effect change – if the Commission wants us to lift this budget reserve, it will have to strengthen its Code of Conduct first.”

Benedek Jávor calls for stronger protection of whistleblowers

Following the regrettable decision of a Luxembourg court, the protection of whistleblowers was debated on the plenary session of the European Parliament on 6 July in Strasbourg. Benedek Jávor in his speech (attended by representatives of the Council and Vice-President of the Commission Jyrki Katainen) claimed that current system is simply not enough to protect whistle-blowers; in fact, verdict such as in the case of LuxLeaks intimidate whistleblowers. The Commission needs to take steps for an effective EU-wide protecting system. People releasing information on illegal activities can face criminal charges.

Here you can watch the speeches of four Greens/EFA MEPs from the plenary debate.


Greens/EFA members believe that it is now a matter of emergency and it is crucial to act, as the recent scandals such as LuxLeaks or Panama Papers prove that whistlerblowers play an essential role in defending public interest. Since Commission has not taken any action so far, Greens/EFA MEPs have already prepared their own proposal for a new directive on protecting people providing information about corruption, tax avoidance and other cases. The existing provisions are scattered across different laws. Member States regulate protection at various levels, some Member States having regulated some level of protection in anti-corruption laws, others in public service laws, and again others in labour, criminal and sector-specific law, others do not have any legal protection. The gaps in regulations are not efficient and harm the public interest.



Hungary: MEPs condemn Orbán’s death penalty statements and migration survey -Press release

The European Parliament asks the European Commission to assess the situation in Hungary and to establish an EU mechanism to monitor democracy, the rule of law and human rights annually across the EU, in a resolution voted on Wednesday. Reinstating the death penalty in Hungary would breach the EU Treaties and Charter of fundamental rights, and the wording of the Hungarian government’s public consultation on migration is “highly misleading, biased and unbalanced”, it says.

In the resolution wrapping up the 19 May plenary debate with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, MEPs condemn Mr Orbán’s repeated statements on the possibility of reinstating the death penalty in Hungary and stress the duty of prime ministers to “lead by example”.

Death penalty would trigger EU Treaty Article 7 sanctions

The death penalty is “incompatible with the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights on which the union is founded”, they stress, adding that any member state reintroducing the death penalty would be “in violation of the Treaties and of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”. They note that a serious breach by a member state would trigger the EU Treaty Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the withdrawal of its voting rights in the Council.

Migration consultation misleading, biased and unbalanced

MEPs also denounce the Hungarian government’s public consultation on migration. Although “public consultation can be an important and valuable tool for governments to develop policies”, “the content and the language used in this particular consultation is “highly misleading, biased, and unbalanced; establishing a biased and direct link between migratory phenomena and security threats”, they say.

Need for better monitoring of democracy and the rule of law

They call on the Commission to “immediately initiate an in-depth monitoring process on the situation of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary and to report back on this matter to the European Parliament and Council before September 2015”.

The Commission is also asked to present a proposal to establish an EU mechanism on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, as a tool for ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaties as signed by all member states, MEPs say. They also instruct Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to help elaborate this proposal by drafting a non-binding resolution to be voted by Parliament as a whole by the end of this year.

The resolution was passed by 362 votes to 247, with 88 abstentions.

Background for editors

On 28 April, Mr Orbán made a statement claiming the need for a public debate on the death penalty. Following a phone conversation with him on 30 April, European Parliament President Martin Schulz issued a statement saying that Mr Orbán had assured him that the Hungarian government had no plans to take any steps to reintroduce the death penalty and that the Hungarian government would respect and honour all EU Treaties and legislation. However, on the next day, 1 May, Mr Orbán then reiterated his statements on the issue in a national public radio interview.

The public consultation on migration was launched by the Hungarian government in May.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs debated death penalty on 7 May, after Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (President Schulz and political group leaders) had asked the committee to examine the situation in Hungary as a “matter of urgency”.
Procedure:  non-legislative resolution