A Priority for the Council of Europe

Ever since antiquity, corruption has been one of the most widespread and insidious of social evils. When it involves public officials and elected representatives, it is inimical to the administration of public affairs. Since the end of the 19th century, it has also been seen as a major threat in the private sphere, undermining the trust and confidence which are necessary for the maintenance and development of sustainable economic and social relations. It is estimated that hundreds of billions of Euros are paid in bribes every year.

The Council of Europe exists to uphold and further pluralist democracy, human rights and the rule of law and has taken a lead in fighting corruption as it poses a threat to the very foundations of these core values. As it is emphasised in the Criminal Law Convention, corruption threatens the rule of law, democracy and human rights, undermines good governance, fairness and social justice, distorts competition, hinders economic development and endangers the stability of democratic institutions and the moral foundations of society. (more...)

What is GRECO?

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) was established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor States’ compliance with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards.

GRECO’s objective is to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with Council of Europe anti-corruption standards through a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. It helps to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. GRECO also provides a platform for the sharing of best practice in the prevention and detection of corruption.

Membership in GRECO, which is an enlarged agreement, is not limited to Council of Europe member States. Any State which took part in the elaboration of the enlarged partial agreement, may join by notifying the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Moreover, any State which becomes Party to the Criminal or Civil Law Conventions on Corruption automatically accedes to GRECO and its evaluation procedures. Currently, GRECO comprises 48 member States (46 European States, Kazakhstan and the United States of America). (more...)

How does GRECO work?

GRECO monitors all its members on an equal basis, through a dynamic process of mutual evaluation and peer pressure. The GRECO mechanism ensures the scrupulous observance of the principle of equality of rights and obligations among its members. All members participate in, and submit themselves without restriction to, the mutual evaluation and compliance procedures.

GRECO monitoring comprises:

  • a “horizontal” evaluation procedure (all members are evaluated within an Evaluation Round) leading to recommendations aimed at furthering the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms;
  • compliance procedure designed to assess the measures taken by its members to implement the recommendations.

GRECO works in cycles: evaluation rounds, each covering specific themes. GRECO’s first evaluation round (2000–2002) dealt with the independence, specialisation and means of national bodies engaged in the prevention and fight against corruption. It also dealt with the extent and scope of immunities of public officials from arrest, prosecution, etc. The second evaluation round (2003–2006) focused on the identification, seizure and confiscation of corruption proceeds, the prevention and detection of corruption in public administration and the prevention of legal persons (corporations, etc) from being used as shields for corruption. The third evaluation round (launched in January 2007) addresses (a) the incriminations provided for in the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and (b) the transparency of party funding. (more...)

Historical Background

Strong political will among Council of Europe member States has shaped the Organisation’s work against corruption over more than a decade, leading to the adoption of a set of comprehensive standard setting instruments and the establishment of an effective monitoring body.

Several milestones have marked the development of this work since 1981, when the Committee of Ministers recommended to take measures against economic crime (including, inter alia, bribery) (Recommendation No. R (81) 12). In 1994 the Ministers of Justice of Council of Europe member States (19th Conference, Valletta) agreed that corruption should be addressed at European level, as it poses a serious threat to the stability of democratic institutions. The Council of Europe, as the pre-eminent European institution defending democracy, the rule of law and human rights, was called upon to respond to the threat. The Ministers were convinced that an effective fight against corruption must take a broad approach and recommended that a Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC) be set up to prepare a comprehensive programme of action against corruption and to examine the possibility of drafting legal instruments in this field, referring expressly to the importance of elaborating a follow-up mechanism to implement the undertakings contained in them. (more...)