Frequently Asked Questions
These questions and answers are designed to explain briefly the key aspects of GRECO’s work and respond to some of the questions that GRECO is asked on a regular basis. For more detailed information about GRECO’s work, please explore the website. You can also find our contact details here.
What is GRECO?
GRECO stands for “Groupe d’Etats contre la corruption” – which in English translates to “Group of States Against Corruption”. It is an inter-governmental group (ie. a state membership body) set up within the auspices of the Council of Europe to monitor the measures its members take to tackle corruption. GRECO evaluations are done by reference to the Council of Europe’s legal instruments including the Twenty Guiding Principles for the fight against corruption, which all GRECO members apply.
GRECO fulfils the monitoring aspect of the Council of Europe’s tripartite approach to fighting corruption which also involves setting standards and providing technical support provided by other parts of the Council of Europe. GRECO does not have the mandate to deal with individual cases of corruption (see question 3 for more information).
GRECO started with 17 member states when it was established in 1999 and now has 49 members including the USA.
Why should I be interested in GRECO? What does it do?
Some will be interested in GRECO’s work because of its focus on corruption prevention, or a particular topic of a given evaluation round, or because of a specific country under review. That said, there are two main reasons why GRECO’s work should be of interest to a wide audience including citizens, practitioners, governments, business, and other international bodies.
- The impact of GRECO recommendations.
- The country-specific information provided by GRECO reports.
GRECO issues recommendations in each round to every Member State in an evaluation report (for an explanation of evaluation “rounds”, please see question 10). The reports are tailored to the specific situation in the country as determined by the GRECO fact-finding and evaluation process. GRECO subsequently determines whether the Member State has complied with the recommendations issued to it through a compliance review process.
It is worth noting that a recent statistical review of compliance levels of Member States with the recommendations made during the first and second round of evaluations shows that overall Member States fully complied with 78% of GRECO recommendations (which rises to 98% when including those recommendations deemed to be of partial compliance).
GRECO’s country-specific reports are the result of collecting and testing information provided by the Member State under review and other relevant actors, primarily domestic and including civil society representatives. The evaluation and compliance reports provide a detailed snapshot of the situation in the country at a given time and vis-à-vis the topic(s) under review and identify areas of concern even where these do not lead to a specific recommendation.
Can GRECO help me with a case of corruption?
No. GRECO is an inter-governmental body that monitors the progress of it Member States’ progress in implementing corruption prevention and related measures. GRECO does not have the power or capacity to receive, investigate or respond to individual cases of corruption nor can it assist with cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Please see the answers to questions 1 and 2 above for more details of what GRECO does and the impact of its work.
Why was GRECO set up?
Corruption has long been a concern to the Council of Europe because of the threat it poses to democratic values and institutions, the rule of law, protecting human rights, and ensuring social equity and healthy economic development.
In the mid-1990s the Council of Europe acknowledged the need for a multi-disciplinary approach and made fighting corruption a priority at the European level. It adopted a number of international instruments - namely the Twenty Guiding Principles for the Fight Against Corruption (1997), the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (1998) and the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (1998) as well as Codes of conduct for public officials (2000) and Common rules against corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns (2003) – and decided to elaborate a sustainable mechanism to monitor and promote, by way of mutual evaluation and peer pressure, the observance and implementation of corruption prevention measures. Thus, GRECO was established on 1 May 1999 with the broad aim of “improving the capacity of its members to fight corruption - by following up compliance with their undertakings in this field” (Article 1, GRECO Statute).
What is the relationship between GRECO and the Council of Europe?
GRECO was formed within the auspices of the Council of Europe and is therefore part of the Council of Europe “family” of institutions and activities. GRECO was originally set up under what is called an “enlarged partial agreement.” A partial agreement is a term used within the Council of Europe to refer to a major activity of European cooperation that is organised by the Council of Europe but does not necessarily include all of its member states. It was on this basis that GRECO was founded by 17 Member States.
GRECO currently has 49 members, which include all 47 Council of Europe Member States. This is because under its enlarged agreement, GRECO can include states who are not members of the Council of Europe. For more detail about GRECO members see answers to question 6.
Who are the current members of GRECO?
GRECO includes two kinds of participants:
- fully participating member states
- and observers
GRECO currently has 49 fully participating member states – which includes all Council of Europe member states as well as Belarus and the USA. Representatives from 8 other bodies including the UNODC, the OECD, etc. and from within the Council of Europe, are allowed to attend GRECO meetings as observers.
A full list of member states in alphabetical order, including the date the state joined and the names of the delegates as well as the representatives of the observer organisations are found here.
How can a country join the GRECO review mechanism?
State membership in GRECO is open on an equal footing to all 47 member states of the Council of Europe and to non-member states, particularly those who participated in GRECO’s establishment. Briefly, there two ways a country can join GRECO:
- a state can make a request (to the Committee of Ministers) to accede to the agreement establishing GRECO. Once invited to join, the Member State commits fully to the GRECO evaluation process and to apply the Twenty Guiding Principles for the Fight Against Corruption.
- a state is automatically a member of GRECO when it signs one of the two conventions - the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the Civil Law Convention on Corruption – and they enter into force with respect to that country.
GRECO was founded by 17 members in 1999 – and now has 49 Member States. As is explained in the answer to question 8, all Member States must submit to all evaluation rounds no matter the date on which they joined.
How does the evaluation and compliance mechanism work?
The GRECO evaluation and compliance mechanism is based on a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. This means that Member States act as reviewers as well as being subject to a review. Further, they must submit their work to the entire group of Member States (during “plenary” sessions) before an evaluation report is adopted.
The evaluation process
Each country-specific evaluation is conducted by a team of 3 to 4 experts – nominated by the Member States - supported by the GRECO Secretariat staff. The process is divided into three main stages:
- The questionnaire sets the framework for each evaluation round. As each Member State is reviewed, they must submit all the necessary factual information required by the questionnaire. This provides the basis for the evaluation assessment.
- The on-site visit is an essential part of the fact-finding and fact-testing process. They enable the evaluation team to engage in discussions with key players from inside and outside government, to request clarifications, and to shed light on blurred and contentious issues.
- The evaluation report is the result of the evaluation team’s assessment. It is both descriptive and analytical, contains observations and recommendations. While there is an opportunity for the Member State under review to comment on the draft report, it is up to GRECO to agree the final report. This is done in plenary and GRECO examines, debates and may amend the report – with or without the agreement of the Member State – prior to it being adopted. The Member state is then invited to make the report public.
The compliance process
Once adopted, the Member State is expected to comply with the recommendations contained in the evaluation report. The Member State must send a “situation” report to GRECO within 18 months and two rapporteurs pre-selected by GRECO assess and analyse the measures against each recommendation to determine whether there has been full or partial compliance and whether a follow-up report is necessary. The compliance report is then adopted by the plenary and the Member States is invited to make the report public. Thus, GRECO is able to monitor progress and prompt further action.
All Member States must submit to all evaluation rounds no matter the date they join GRECO. Each evaluation is followed up by a compliance process that may involve a number of follow-ups depending on how much progress is made by the Member State. Inevitably this means that there is some overlap between rounds with respect to certain Member States.
Who attends the GRECO meetings? How are delegates selected?
GRECO currently holds four plenary meetings a year to adopt reports, make decisions for its operation, and develop its multi-disciplinary approach. Each Member State appoints a delegation of not more than two representatives – one nominated as the head of the delegation. The delegates are typically appointed according to their experience in the field of corruption or related matters. The delegates participate in all decision-making and have the right to vote. A list of GRECO delegations by Member State is found here.
Who decides on the issues to be evaluated by GRECO in each round?
GRECO evaluations are conducted in “rounds” or cycles. Each round focuses on specific issues in the fight against corruption as agreed by the GRECO Member States beforehand with reference to Council of Europe legal instruments and the Twenty Guiding Principles for the fight against corruption.
All Member States must be evaluated for each round no matter when they join GRECO. This, along with a compliance review process that allows for more than one follow-up depending on the progress made, inevitably results in some overlap in evaluation rounds for some Member States.
Do Member States have a say in GRECO’s evaluation report? Can they argue against a recommendation?
Evaluation reports are the result of a meticulous process of data collecting, fact-testing and dialogue which includes an on-site visit and meeting with key actors inside and outside of government. Once a draft report is completed, the Member State has a chance to correct any errors and provide its comments. This information is taken into account by the evaluation team when finalising the draft report.
The final draft is submitted to the GRECO plenary where it is examined by all GRECO Member States. The evaluation team and the Member State under review also participate in the discussion. While the Member State is able to raise issues as to the contents of the report or to any of the recommendations and the evaluation team is able to respond, it is up to the GRECO plenary to agree the final report and to adopt it.
Why are some evaluation and compliance reports on the GRECO website listed as “confidential”?
The rules provide that the evaluation reports are confidential unless the Member State agrees to waive confidentiality and make the report public. To date, and in line with GRECO practice, all evaluation reports and compliance reviews are made public by the authorities of the Member state within a reasonable time (which can be a few days or a few months). All the reports are available on the GRECO website in French and in English. GRECO also invites the Member State to translate the report into its national language and to make the translation publicly available.
Are there sanctions for not complying with a GRECO recommendation?
GRECO relies on a model of mutual evaluation and peer pressure – rather than a model of sanctions, legal or otherwise - to promote reform and improve the capacity of Member States to fight and prevent corruption. As such it must be a credible and professional mechanism which is supported by all its Members. Please see the answer to question 8 for details on how the evaluation and compliance process functions and the impact of GRECO’s work.
However, GRECO can employ a number of actions under its rules of procedure to increase pressure on a Member State whose compliance is deemed “globally unsatisfactory” – including a high level diplomatic meeting between GRECO, the Council of Europe and the Member State. Moreover, GRECO reports are public and can be the subject of media attention as well as offer the public and other practitioners in the field an opportunity to scrutinise them and to support the work of the Council of Europe and the Member States to implement effective reforms and improve practices.
Does GRECO work with other international bodies including other monitoring bodies?
While GRECO must prioritise any additional commitment of time and resources, it engages in a wide range of activities which are vital to ensuring a deeper understanding and awareness of corruption prevention, avoiding the duplication of efforts, and to focusing attention on the barriers to progress that we face in Europe.
A number of intergovernmental bodies have observer status in GRECO (see answer to question 6) and many organisations including national governments, international organisations and independent groups frequently seek GRECO advice and feedback. GRECO is asked to contribute to OECD meetings on different subjects including, for example, on reinforcing the political will to fight corruption in Eastern Europe, attends UN meetings on implementing the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and participates in the European Commission Group of Experts on Corruption, to name a few.
It should be noted that while GRECO cooperates with other monitoring bodies such as the OECD Anti-bribery Working Group, and the UNCAC review mechanism, each has their separate and specific monitoring mandate.
The fight against corruption is a key concern in the European Union as well. In order to strengthen corruption prevention EU membership was envisaged by the GRECO founding documents. In 2010, the European Council recommended that the European Commission explore EU accession to GRECO and discussions are underway.