The two-day tripartite conference on “Strengthening the Capacity of Parliamentarians, Judges and Prosecutors to Prevent Corruption in their Own Ranks: Emerging Trends from Two Years of GRECO Round IV Evaluations” opened at IACA yesterday.
Seventy representatives of GRECO member states have come together to take stock of national experiences and main findings in light of the Fourth Evaluation Round, review policies, exchange information and good practices, and identify future steps for strengthening institutional capacities.
Under the auspices of the Austrian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, this conference is jointly organized by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice, GRECO, and IACA, with extra financial support from the Principality of Monaco.
A high-level segment was first on the agenda on Thursday morning, attended by Wolfgang Brandstetter (Minister of Justice of Austria), Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni (Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe), Bledar Çuçi (Minister of State for Local Government and National Anti-Corruption Coordinator of Albania), Barbara Prammer (President of the Austrian Parliament), Margarita Popova (Vice President of Bulgaria), Sandra Atuković Kunšt (Deputy Minister of Justice of Croatia), Angelo Farrugia (Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament of Malta), Philippe Narmino (Minister of Justice and President of the State Council of Monaco), and Marin Mrčela (President of GRECO and Justice of the Supreme Court of Croatia).
Martin Kreutner, Dean of IACA, opened the segment as the moderator. “Let us commend and pay tribute to GRECO for dedicating the fourth round of evaluations to assessing and scrutinizing these important institutions“, he stated. Mr. Kreutner brought up the issue of recurring debates in some European countries on questioning the separation of power and extending and enlarging immunities from criminal and administrative liability for privileged groups of society, including the political sphere. “Such developments are diametrically opposing European values; they deeply disrespect the concepts of equality and equity, of justice and fairness; and they are not compliant with the ratio, the rationale of major regional and international anti-corruption frameworks”, he asserted.
Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni shared the staggering figures of the latest Eurobarometer survey which found that 76 percent of Europeans see corruption as widespread, while more than half believe that it has increased in their own country. “I am reminded that someone once said that corruption is like a ball of snow. Once it starts rolling it becomes bigger and bigger until at some point it becomes unstoppable”, she quoted. “But I disagree. Yes, corruption is likely to have increased in many European countries, but we should also remember that the means available to society for detecting it have also been bolstered. That is why, looking ahead, I am cautiously optimistic”.
The Austrian Minister of Justice, Wolfgang Brandstetter, praised the monitoring and impact assessment conducted by GRECO as a way forward for improving institutional integrity and increasing public trust. “I consider states’ voluntary and reciprocal review of one another in the fight against corruption not only as an important signal, but also as an engine for the development of standards in the laws. And that helps us to anchor these standards in the minds of the people,” he stated.
A thematic session on politics and parliament followed the high-level segment on Thursday afternoon, where GRECO delegates worked together with experts from different sectors to highlight achievements in the area. The second thematic session, on prosecutors and judges, opened this morning.
(c) Photos by IACA and Christian Jungwirth