Venla Mäntysalo: Progress in the fight against corruption
Fighting corruption is our joint responsibility. The European Union can set an example here. Finland’s Presidency has further strengthened the emphasis on the Council agenda on the fight against corruption.
In a policy debate at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in October, a majority of member states called for a new comprehensive anti-corruption strategy for the EU. The Council highlighted the role of the fight against corruption in efforts to strengthen the rule of law and build confidence.
The justice ministers discussed the need for an assessment of anti-corruption measures in the member states. This assessment could be incorporated into the new rule-of-law review cycle within the EU. The JHA Council further noted that in monitoring anti-corruption measures, the EU should make efficient use of the relevant evaluations and reports produced by international organisations.
The member states sent a clear message that the EU institutions should join the evaluation mechanism under the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Moreover, in the future the EU should strive to become a full member in the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), to which it became an observer last July.
A major European step in fighting corruption is the Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, also known as the whistleblower protection directive, adopted by the JHA Council in October 2019. In practical terms, the directive requires private and public employers as well as other operators to create safe channels for reporting any wrongdoings. It should be borne in mind, however, that more effective enforcement and accountability do not rule out a culture of trust. The channels for reporting breaches of law serve to support ethical practices and prevent abuses, whilst ensuring the legal protection of the whistleblowers themselves and of those concerned by their reports.
National steps forward
Finland is taking new steps in the fight against corruption at national level: the ministerial working group on internal security and strengthening the rule of law has decided to launch preparations for an anti-corruption strategy and an action plan for the years 2020–2023. The goal is to step up the fight against corruption and to build a society in which there is no place for corruption.
Various international organisations have urged Finland to draw up an anti-corruption strategy or action plan. The UN Convention against Corruption invites the States Parties to develop and implement anti-corruption policies that ensure respect for the rule of law, objectivity and fairness in the management of public affairs and public property, and adequate transparency, integrity and accountability.
What is in store for the future? The main goals of Finland’s anti-corruption strategy are to strengthen and clarify institutional structures, and to increase transparency and awareness of corruption. Other objectives include facilitating detection and exposure of corruption cases, looking into the fitness for purpose of relevant legislation and promoting research in the field.
Apart from national implementation of the whistleblower protection directive, another major step in the fight against corruption in Finland will be the establishment of a transparency register. Preparations for this register, which will increase transparency in lobbying, will begin soon.
Despite progress made at EU and national levels, preventing corruption requires continuous effort. There is no room for inaction or complacency. Through their own actions and example, both individual citizens and organisations can contribute to promoting justice and transparency.