Auteur: | By Lisbeth Kirk
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A group of MEPs will on Wednesday (25 May) launch a European branch of the global network of Parliamentarians Against Corruption.
The move comes as the commission president finds himself embroiled in allegations of conflicts of interest and is facing a motion of censure against his institution on the same day.
"If everything becomes more transparent, people tend to think already before they do this kind of thing", says Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter, one of those who signed up to the motion.
The Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPEC), was created in 2002 in Canada and has regional branches all over the world. But so far Europe has been a black spot on the map.
"Asia, Africa and the Middle East have it, Latin America and the US has it - but not Europe. Corruption is a global problem and a lot of the money paying for corruption comes from Europe. Therefore we need this European division of it", he told the EUobserver.
The purpose of the network is not to dig up scandals as such but to create a society which prevents fraud and corruption from even arising.
One of the most important tools in the kit to fight fraud and corruption is transparency, according to the Swede.
"There is a very clear connection between transparency and the level of corruption", says Mr Schlyter linking the relatively low level of corruption and fraud in Nordic countries to a relatively high level of transparency.
"Transparency is the fundamental principle fighting corruption", he says.
He believes that the Barroso affair could have been prevented had the rules of governing transparency been better in the EU institutions.
"Yes, because then people in decision-making would realise that if you are taking a decision that affects a friend this will be publicly known and then maybe you shouldn't be involved or clearly distance yourself from involvement in such a decision. If everything becomes more transparent, people tend to think already before they do this kind of thing. So yes, it could help", says Mr Schlyter.
The new network will call on members of the European Parliament and on MPs in national parliaments to sign up. It aims at setting up a training programme to help politicians better scrutinise administrations and to establish a code of conduct for parliamentarians.
A new website will offer advice for potential whistleblowers in the EU administrations, presenting the rules for complaints and offering a space where informants can bring their information forward.
The right to inform
Most countries have laws protecting journalist sources but in Sweden whistleblowers are also protected.
"People in Sweden have the right to inform journalists about problems in administration or fraud or even of decisions in the making that would violate public benefit", Mr Schlyter explains.
With the exception of military secrets, Swedes can blow the whistle and it is illegal to try and track the source of the leaked information.
Mr Schlyter tells the story of a Swedish official, who went to the local paper with sensitive information. When her boss phoned the paper to track the source, he was the one to get punished.
The MEP, who referred specifically to two former Commission officials Paul van Buitenen and Marta Andreasen, thinks EU rules on whistleblowers should be altered "because we have seen examples of whistle blowing having a very positive impact".
"The rules should include whistle blowing as a resort because sometimes you can not go to your bosses. Or if you go to them and they don't react, you must have a second alternative".