Corruption undermines democracy, the rule of law and trust in public institutions. It holds countries back from development, underpins organised crime, leads to human rights violations and distorts markets - just to mention a few of its terrible consequences. Today it is International Anti-Corruption Day - a good opportunity to put increased focus on this scourge.
Corruption exists all over the world, and Europe is far from spared. In my previous position as Commissioner for Home Affairs, I undertook the launch of last years’ EU Anti-Corruption Report, which showed that results of anti-corruption work are uneven across the EU. More should be done to prevent corrupt practices and punish those responsible.
Although trade agreements, meanwhile, are primarily about creating new economic opportunities for people all over the world, they are also about fighting corruption and promoting good governance. As stated in the new Trade Strategy of the EU that I launched recently, the new generation of EU trade agreements is designed to promote responsibility based on our European values.
Trade is a powerful tool to advancing our fight against corruption and promoting good governance. Today, trade policy already contributes to tackle corruption, for instance by increasing the transparency of regulations and public procurement, and by simplifying customs procedures. Also, under the scheme called GSP+, the EU offers trade presences to developing countries that implement international conventions related to good governance, including the UN Convention Against Corruption.
Trade agreements can be used even further to fight corruption and ensure that international conventions and principles are implemented in practice. We start by proposing to negotiate ambitious provisions on anti-corruption in all our future trade agreements, starting with TTIP (our planned trade deal with the US). Also, as stated in our Trade Strategy, we will use free trade agreements to monitor domestic reforms of rule of law and governance, and in cases of systematic corruption and weak governance, we will set up consultation mechanisms.
Corruption is a plague on the world’s economics and societies, and it also prevents us from eradicating poverty, protecting our environment and achieving sustainable development. We must #breakthechain by fighting it - all 365 days of the year.