France wants the European Union to create an independent watchdog authority to fight corruption in the EU institutions, which have been rattled by ongoing scandals in recent months.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron and French Secretary of State for European Affairs Laurence Boone are proposing an independent anti-corruption body that would have powers to check officials’ income and spot conflicts of interest, Boone told POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook.
And now they’re pushing for other EU countries to endorse the plan.
Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed the creation of an ethics body with lofty goals but no enforcement power to impose standards across the EU institutions, in an attempt to show their commitment to anti-corruption measures. But to Boone — and others who criticized the plan at the time — that’s not enough.
“The Commission’s proposal is a start, but I think we can and must be much more ambitious,” Boone said. “After the shock caused by several corruption scandals … we need to restore citizens’ confidence in their institutions.”
Boone’s comments come as she moves to build her profile ahead of the 2024 EU election. The Europe minister is campaigning internally to lead Macron’s Renew list for the election, with other party figures such as the Renew group president in the European Parliament, Stéphane Séjourné, considered strong potential contenders.
Citizens’ trust in the institutions has been affected after a slew of scandals sent shockwaves across the EU, including the Qatargate ruckus that rocked the European Parliament last December.
POLITICO revealed earlier this year that several commissioners have been on sponsored trips, a senior official accepted free flights from Qatar Airways while his team was negotiating an aviation deal with Doha, and another senior official failed to declare his ownership of a luxury hotel in Bali.
“We need an independent authority, with real means of control to prevent new scandals,” Boone said.
It would mirror France’s own High Authority for Transparency in Public Life, which investigates bank accounts, assets, and incomes of public servants to make sure they don’t have conflicts of interest, and which has the power to refer cases to prosecutors if officials fail to meet transparency requirements.
Marion Solletty contributed reporting.