On the second anniversary of Anti Corruption International, two of the primary founders of the organisation were in a windy Brussels campaigning. They were seeking to advance the discussion on the relevance of combatting corruption for the European Union, an area which even this year has seen its setbacks. The very disappointing step not to publish the EU Anti Corruption Report, for example, was at the forefront of activists’ worries about the EU shirking its responsibilities.
However, this analysis is not necessarily reflective of the bigger picture. We have also seen major steps forwards in terms of the EU taking a firm line with the Romanian government for a proposed reversal on success in the fight against corruption there. Jean-Claude Juncker even went as far as to say “The fight against corruption needs to be advanced, not undone”. This is something that we in Anti Corruption International firmly agree with. This is why it is worrying to see the EU fail to step forward and pursue a global role that is rooted in fighting corruption. The EU is, after all, the largest development aid contributor. Moreover, such a role would give it a unique voice in an increasingly uncertain world, where US leadership in the fight against global corruption seems to be waning. President Trump has even spoken out against the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – a statement piece of legislation that has emboldened many in the fight against foreign corporate corruption by states. Mr Trump went as far to say that the FCPA is a “horrible law” that stifles American businesses trying to work abroad. “It puts us at a huge disadvantage”.
It is in these circumstances that we have seen the need for anti-corruption activists to be loud and vocal in defence of such legislation. Campaigners must stand up for everything covering whistleblowers rights all the way up to the need for an international legal framework to be established to help root out corruption. This, however, wouldn’t be a solely altruistic exercise on the part of the European Union. We have seen the insidious effect that corruption has on public trust in state institutions. We have seen the effect this has had across Europe, as well as the fact that corruption is estimated to cost the European Union €990 billion Euros (roughly 6.82 times the EU annual budget of €145 billion Euros).
It’s should come as no surprise that such large sums being locked up in corruption and corrupt activities should be a major priority within the European Union, both in regards to its internal affairs and also more broadly about its role overseas. That is why we are celebrating our two years of activism by progressing our campaigning abilities. We are reaching out to other organisations who encompass a variety of aspects that help to make up a vibrant, responsive civil society. Now more than ever it is important for organisations such as ours, who believe in the power of change coming through international solidarity and collaboration, to work more closely together to protect advances in the fight against corruption from the winds of regressive change that seem to be facing Anti-Corruption activists around the world.
By Jason Deegan