On August 12, the Council of Europe announced that the Council’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) issued a report with regard to corruption prevention pertaining to members of parliament, judges and prosecutors in Germany. The report found that Germany had an “overall very low level of compliance” with recommendations that GRECO had made in 2015.
In its 2015 Fourth Round Evaluation Report on Germany, GRECO made eight recommendations concerning corruption prevention pertaining to German members of parliament, judge, and prosecutors. These recommendations addressed a range of issue including ethical principles and rules of conduct; prohibition or restriction of certain activities; supervision and enforcement; and advice, training, and awareness. The 2019 report addressed five of those recommendations that were still pending:
- Improving Transparency of the Parliamentary Process: GRECO had recommended “that the transparency of the parliamentary process be further improved, e.g. by introducing rules for members of parliament on how to interact with lobbyists and other third parties seeking to influence the parliamentary process.” GRECO credited Germany with publishing, on the website of ministries, comments received by stakeholders from the private sector and civil society on draft legislation.” It deemed that action “a significant step in improving transparency of the legislative process on side of the Federal Government.” At the same time, GRECO pointed out “that the recommendation specifically calls for the transparency of the parliamentary process to be improved,” and that a number of the concerns GRECO has outlined in the 2015 Report “remain unaddressed.” It found that this recommendation “remains partly implemented.”
- Conflict of Interest: GRECO had recommended “that a requirement of ad hoc disclosure be introduced when a conflict between specific private interests of individual members of parliament may emerge in relation to a matter under consideration in parliamentary proceedings,” and that that members of parliament “be provided written guidance on this requirement – including definitions and/or types of conflicts of interest – as well as advice on possible conflicts of interests and related ethical questions by a dedicated source of confidential counselling.” It stated that this recommendation has not been implemented since the original recommendation.
- Declarations of Interest: GRECO had recommended that “the existing regime of declarations of interests be reviewed in order to extend the categories of information to be disclosed,” and that “that consideration be given to widening the scope of the declarations to also include information on spouses and dependent family members.” It recognized, in a more extensive analysis, that several parts of the recommendation had been implemented, but that overall the recommendation remains partly implemented.
- Supervision and Enforcement: GRECO had recommended that “appropriate measures be taken to ensure effective supervision and enforcement of the current and future declaration requirements, rules on conflicts of interest and other rules of conduct for members of parliament . . . .”
- Transparency in Judges’ Secondary Activities: GRECO had recommended that “appropriate measures be taken with a view to enhancing the transparency and monitoring of secondary activities of judges.” It noted that the German Court of Audit had reviewed secondary activities at one high-level federal court, and that that court “improved its monitoring of secondary activities where necessary.” It also approved of the adoption of a new code of conduct for justices of the Federal Constitutional Court, and the publication of a new code of conduct has been adopted and that information on income received as a result of attending events or contributing to publications by justices of the Federal Constitutional Court. As those improvements were restricted to two federal courts, GRECO concluded that the recommendation remains partly implemented.
GRECO concluded that, notwithstanding positive steps that Germany had taken with regard to some of the recommendations, “the overall very low level of compliance with the recommendations is ‘globally unsatisfactory’” within the meaning of Rule 31 of GRECO’s Rules of Procedure. Accordingly, it asked the Head of the German delegation to GRECO to provide a report on the progress in implementing the pending recommendations no later than June 30, 2020.
Note: Germany is far from the only GRECO Member State that has been slow to implement GRECO’s recommendations. In its most recent Annual Report, GRECO reportedly “identified a number of gaps in several countries,” including “the need for codes of conduct for ministers and other top executive functions, lobbying, managing of conflicts of interest, asset declarations, immunities and ‘revolving doors’.” It also expressed its regret that 14 Member States, including Germany, had not yet ratified the Council of Europe’s Civil Law Convention on Corruption “despite its importance for the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in ensuring effective remedies in domestic law for people who have suffered damage as a result of acts of corruption.”