Why does the EU not sanction corrupt politicians?

2024-04-23 08:57:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

Why does the EU not sanction corrupt politicians?

The European Commission (EC) had proposed about a year ago that the European Union (EU) should impose sanctions on people and entities found guilty of serious corruption. But very little has been done in this direction.

When this proposal was announced in May 2023, hopes were high that the EU would have something similar to the so-called "Magnitsky sanctions", which are already in place in Canada, Great Britain and the United States.

Such measures enable countries to target corrupt businessmen and compromised officials.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who floated the idea in a speech in the fall of 2022, has not said much on the issue in recent months.

However, the main reason why this proposal has stalled – as is usually the case when it comes to bloc sanctions – is due to the member states' own fault and the need to find consensus.

When the EU adopted the new sanctions regime in 2020 against human rights abuses worldwide, corruption was removed as a sanctionable offence.

Hungary had said it would not support the proposal if it included references to corruption, while other member states, notably Luxembourg and those in southern Europe, also expressed their reluctance.

The issue has dragged through various lower-level diplomatic working groups since the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - presented the draft law nearly a year ago to the Council of the European Union, which sets the political priorities and directions of the EU. block.

Sweden, which presided over the Council when the European Commission announced its proposal, had only a few weeks left in its presidency and decided not to deal with the issue at all. Spain, which was not too happy with the proposal, also decided not to put it on the agenda at all during its presidency in the second half of the year.

Belgium, which is currently holding the presidency of the Council, will probably do the same. Belgian officials have hinted that there is no way this issue can be taken forward when there is no consensus among member countries.

Since the EU is preparing for the European Parliament elections, this proposal will be forgotten even more. There are many legitimate concerns about making corruption a punishable offence. Some European politicians are concerned that restrictive domestic measures would be used to punish political opponents.

Then there are concerns about how far Brussels will be able to go when it comes to meddling in what are largely seen as internal issues in third countries.

Some diplomats who have spoken to Radio Free Europe emphasize that the sanctions imposed by the EU are not related to what can be described as "economic crimes", but more to the "classic" breach of duty.

For example, continued support for undermining a country's territorial integrity has led to asset freezes and visa regimes, mostly against Russian nationals in recent years, following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Other cases include assassinations, torture and ill-treatment, which are included in the EU sanctions regime for human rights violations worldwide.

There is another obstacle: the need to find sufficient and reliable evidence to impose sanctions. Brussels can only target people and companies through publicly available information, and, of course, corruption is very dark business.

The EU has had little luck with perhaps the biggest corruption-related sanctions regime to date: the 2014 decision to impose sanctions against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and 17 of his top associates. close, for "appropriation of state funds of Ukraine". Ten years later, only three people remain on the blacklist, as the others managed to be removed from the list through the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Brussels officials have already admitted - just like the ECJ judges - that most of the evidence they had at the time was not convincing and that the sanctions against them were decided in haste.

The EU's troubles with the ECJ were highlighted even more recently when several Russian citizens, who had been sanctioned over the war in Ukraine, succeeded in winning against it in the Luxembourg-based court.

It is here that diplomats who are in favor of anti-corruption sanctions have one of their strongest arguments. As legal decisions have proven, it is sometimes difficult to prove links to the Russian war. If corruption were a sanctionable offense alongside other offences, there would likely be more evidence and a greater opportunity to keep individuals on the sanctioned list.

Those in favor of anti-corruption sanctions say it would help to create a working group on the issue within the Council of the European Union, where ministers from member countries meet to discuss, amend and approve laws.

The European Commission's current proposal, seen by Radio Free Europe, is quite limited in scope, which may actually help.

According to the proposal, three categories will be targeted: active bribery, which means "promising, offering or giving an illegal opportunity to a public official, directly or indirectly, for the official himself or herself, or for another person or entity"; passive bribery, which means acceptance by a public official of such an offer; and embezzlement and misappropriation of property by an official./ Rel

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