A top official for the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) said Greece must have stricter rules of conduct for Members of Parliament and judges as the country struggles to change its reputation for wrongdoing at the highest levels.
The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, a 47-nation human rights body that has no legislative powers, praised Greece for having a code requiring declaration of wealth but said how parties are financed and their dealings with lobbyists is too murky, the news agency Reuters said in a report.
GRECO’s Executive Secretary Gianluca Esposito said there must also be a clearer distinction between the executive and judiciary and clearing long delays in the justice system where trials and court appearances can be set back a decade or more.
“I think corruption has had an impact, has contributed to getting where we are and into a situation where the economy was struggling,” Esposito said, referring to Greece’s eight-year economic and austerity crisis.
“That was a long time ago. Things have now certainly improved. The key is not to stop in the middle, but to continue on the reform process,” he said.
GRECO released two reports earlier in March showing concern there had been backsliding on anti-corruption efforts and the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, which promised transparency, allowing anonymous donations to political parties with no accounting of how money is spent.
The agency also said there wasn’t clear criteria about lifting parliamentary immunity to allow investigations of lawmakers suspect of wrongdoing with the body mostly rejecting any attempts to probe its own.
“There are no clear criteria,” Esposito told the news agency. “It’s important for members of parliament to exercise their work without the fear of political prosecution… However, immunity doesn’t mean impunity. Immunity doesn’t shield a person from corruption and in most countries there are very transparent criteria about how this immunity is lifted.”
Greece ranks 59th in the world among 180 countries rated by Transparency International, with a score of 48 on the public perception of corruption out of 100.
“I don’t rank countries,” Esposito said. Corruption existed in every country in one manifestation or another, which is why prevention was needed to prevent it taking hold, he said.
“It is like a virus … When it becomes the norm, nothing works anymore. Democracy doesn’t work anymore. The economy doesn’t work anymore, and the rule of law simply doesn’t exist,” he said.