The report assesses the effectiveness, quality and independence of the justice systems of the EU member states based on the analysis of responses to a dedicated questionnaire provided by the experts appointed by each country. This year, the questionnaire addressed the issues regarding:
- Duration of bribery proceedings in the courts of first instance;
- Powers of public bodies responsible for the prevention of and the fight against corruption;
- Procedure for appointing officials of these bodies.
1. Duration of court proceedings
The findings of the survey show that the medium duration of bribery proceedings in the courts of first instance in the EU member states varies from 100 to 800 days.
In Slovenia for instance, decisions on bribery cases can take over two years (roughly 800 days), around 600 days in Croatia and 500 days in France.
The bodies responsible for the fight against corruption work most promptly in Bulgaria and Denmark where these proceedings take 100 days and in Finland with the duration of proceedings of about 150 days.
2. Powers of public bodies responsible for the prevention of and the fight against corruption
2.1. Law enforcement agencies
In almost all EU member states (except for Finland), there are not only general police and prosecution authorities that counter corruption but also specialised law enforcement agencies established for this purpose. The latter normally address only specific cases concerning the most serious and complex corruption crimes or crimes committed by certain categories of persons (for example, by high-ranking officials).
- Hungary has a specialised prosecutor’s office;
- Belgium, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania and Malta have established specialised police bodies;
- Other countries have either specialised prosecution authorities or specialised police bodies.
2.2. Anti-corruption bodies
17 EU member states have established specialised anti-corruption bodies also to fulfill corruption prevention functions; at the same time, they can dispose of not only the “traditional” prevention instruments (collection and analysis of declarations of assets and/or interests, detection of conflicts of interest, control of compliance with other anti-corruption standards) but also of more specific ones.
In particular, the anti-corruption body of Greece has the widest range of powers if compared to other European countries. It is responsible, among other things, for:
- Verification of declarations of assets and interests, notifications of acceptance of gifts and/or other benefits and advantages;
- Detection of conflicts of interest of certain categories of officials;
- Regulation of lobbying activities;
- Control of compliance of officials with the codes of conduct;
- Regulation of movement of officials from the public sector to the private one;
- Anti-corruption analysis of draft laws;
- Imposing disciplinary liability, for example, for the failure to respect prohibitions and restrictions;
- Conduct of criminal investigations into corruption cases, including evidence gathering.
Criminal investigations can be carried out by the anti-corruption bodies of Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Cyprus as well; those of Czechia, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia and Cyprus can also oversee lobbying activities; those of Ireland, France, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary and Romania are entitled to participate in public procurement.
3. Procedure for appointing heads of the bodies responsible for preventing and combating corruption
The report stresses that specialised law enforcement and anti-corruption bodies in EU countries normally enjoy sufficient independence due to the approach to appointing their leadership.
In most cases, it is top executives (president, prime minister, minister of justice) or the legislative body (for instance, parliament) responsible for this kind of appointments.
The initial list of candidates to the post of head of the corruption prevention body can be defined by the same persons/bodies that subsequently offer the appointment or by other persons/bodies such as:
- In France, by the French Anti-Corruption Agency (Agence française anticorruption) and the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique);
- In Cyprus, by Parliament and the Independent Authority against Corruption (Ανεξάρτητης Αρχής κατά της Διαφθοράς);
- In Lithuania, by the Special Investigation Service (Lietuvos Respublikos specialiųjų tyrimų tarnyba) and the Chief Official Ethics Commission (Vyriausioji tarnybinės etikos komisija);
- In Portugal, the General Prosecutor and the National Anti-Corruption Mechanism (Mecanismo Nacional Anticorrupção);
- In Slovenia, by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (Komisija za Preprečevanje Korupcije).