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Germany: Deficient progress to curb corruption leads to non-compliance procedure

Strasbourg 12.08.2019
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Germany: Deficient progress to curb corruption leads to non-compliance procedure

In its latest report on corruption prevention with respect to members of parliament, judges and prosecutors in Germany, GRECO concludes an “overall very low level of compliance” with recommendations dating from 2015. This “globally unsatisfactory” assessment has prompted GRECO to apply a non-compliance procedure for Germany, which means that its German delegation must provide a report on progress in implementing pending recommendations no later than 30 June 2020.

In an earlier report on the same issue (adopted in March 2017), GRECO mentioned the positive steps taken to implement the 2015 recommendations in respect of prosecutors and judges, but already noted little progress in respect of members of the German federal parliament (Bundestag). The report published today confirms this lack of progress, with none of the four recommendations on prevention of corruption in respect of members of parliament having been fully implemented to date.

In particular, GRECO regrets the lack of further progress on the side of the Bundestag in increasing the transparency of the parliamentary process (notwithstanding steps taken on the side of the federal government itself to improve the transparency of the legislative process), referring to earlier concerns over shortcomings in the registration of lobbyists and other third parties seeking to influence the work of members of the Bundestag and late publication of draft legislation. GRECO also expresses disappointment about the absence of any developments in requiring members of parliament to disclose a potential conflict between their private interests and any matters being discussed in parliamentary proceedings.

GRECO further notes with concern the rejection by the federal parliament to include both significant assets, such as real estate and shareholdings in enterprises below the threshold of 25% of voting rights, and significant liabilities, to the existing regime of declarations of interests by MPs. GRECO takes note of a German legal analysis carried out last year (which found that the GRECO recommendation would supposedly violate Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, as well as Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR on the right to property). However, GRECO points to European Court of Human Rights case-law, finding similar disclosure requirements a justifiable interference with the right to privacy and stresses that other member states have found “appropriate solutions” in line with their own domestic constitutional provisions, in full respect of the ECHR.

Even for current declaration requirements, GRECO determines that prior recommendations to take appropriate measures that would ensure effective supervision and enforcement of rules on conflicts of interest for MPs have not been implemented fully, either.

With respect to judges, GRECO does welcome measures taken by the Federal Constitutional Court that improve transparency of income received by its judges from publications or attending events, as well as measures taken by one federal court to improve monitoring of secondary activities of its judges. However, as these measures remain limited to the Federal Constitutional Court and one other federal court, more progress needs to be made to enhance the transparency and monitoring of judges’ secondary activities in general.

When a country's implementation of GRECO recommendations is very low, it can be placed in a so-called non-compliance procedure. This procedure contains several stages. A public statement, outside normal reporting, is the final stage, which has only been reached in the case of Belarus.

In addition to Germany, countries currently in a non-compliance procedure include Belarus, Hungary, Luxembourg, Ireland, Turkey, Romania, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, North Macedonia and Austria.

GRECO’s most recent annual report indicates that overall implementation of GRECO’s recommendations slowed down last year, with only 34% of recommendations having been fully implemented by the end of year, referring also to the number of countries in a non-compliance procedure.

Contact: Panos Kakaviatos, Spokesperson/ Media officer, tel. + 33 3 90 21 50 27