May 5, 2023

EU aims to enhance anti-corruption measures

On May 3, 2023, new anti-corruption measures were presented by the European Commission.  The measures include a joint communication, a directive on fighting corruption, and a proposal by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to complement the Common Foreign and Security Policy’s existing restrictive measures with a dedicated anti-corruption sanctions regime.  The European Commission issued a Question and Answer memorandum and a Fact Sheet to complement the joint communication and proposed measures.

Noting that corruption is a global problem with cross-border implications, that undermines democracy, is damaging to society, harms the economy, and constitutes an impediment to sustainable economic growth, the European Commission and the European High Representative emphasized the importance of both prevention and enforcement.  Two proposals have been adopted by the Commission in order to address the problem.  The first is a directive that harmonizes European Union rules on the definitions and penalties applicable to corruption offenses.  The proposed directive extends the list of corruption offenses to cover misappropriation, influence trading, abuse of function, illicit enrichment derived from corruption, and obstruction of justice.  The proposal unifies penalties, and sets out the aggravating and mitigating circumstances that may be considered when imposing a penalty.  A novel factor to be considered is the level of public office held by the offender.  On the prevention front, the proposed directive includes a requirement of research, education, and public information campaigns, as well as new disclosure and conflicts management rules.

The second is a proposal for a dedicated Common Foreign and Security Policy sanctions regime focused on acts of corruption that affect or risk affecting the fundamental interests of the European Union as describe in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union.  Although the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has established legally binding provisions to criminalize the bribery of public officials in international business transactions, there are lacunae in national and international anti-corruption strategies, and the European Union’s criminal legislation to fight corruption is both fragmented and outdated.  The proposal aims to fill these lacunae and rationalize the legislation, both by strengthening existing laws and by using common foreign and security policy sanctions to tackle systemic and widespread corruption beyond the borders of the European Union, when it affects the interests and fundamental values of EU countries.

These proposals are embodied in a Council Decision and Council Regulation.  The Commission issued Questions and Answers to explain the proposed changes, the motivation behind them, and the current situation inside and outside of the European Union.

Press releaseJoint communication |

Directive | Questions and Answers | Fact Sheet