The European Union is highly vulnerable to corruption and conflicts of interest, according to a new report from Transparency International.
In the first of its kind, the 250-page report examined all 10 EU institutions and found them wanting. The transparency group blasted the EU for the lack of adequate protections provided to internal whistleblowers.
The findings were even more devastating considering that all ten institutions are legally obligated to provide such such protections, but only one was found to be satisfactory.
The anti-corruption group concluded that the foundations in the EU system to support integrity and ethics were being severely undermined by "poor practice, lack of political leadership, failure to allocate sufficient staff and funding, and a lack of clarity about whom the rules apply."
Released one month before the European parliamentary elections, the report will give significant ammunition to those parties and groups arguing that the EU has become unaccountable and susceptible to special interests.
European citizens are already highly sceptical of the Brussels model, with 70 per cent believing corruption is present within the EU institutions, according to Eurobarometer.
The report also warned against the increasing trend of legislation being negotiated behind closed doors without sufficient debate or public engagement.
Director of Transparency International, Carl Dolan, commented:
The European elections in May are an opportunity to reflect on how EU institutions can better serve the public. If the new EU leadership is serious about arresting the decline in trust and confidence, corruption risks need to be dealt with before they become corruption scandals.
Transparency International recommended a host of measures to help the EU raise its game. The group said proper protections for whistleblowers would help foster a culture of openness for those who work in the institutions and could restore some measure of public confidence.
A European public prosecutor with broad powers should be established to tackle cross-border corruption, along with EU institutions recording all input for legislation received by lobbyists and interest groups.
However, the group was keen to stress that it was not assessing the level of corruption in EU institutions but only on the ability of those institutions to prevent, uncover deal with corruption.