Verklaring Tineke Strik over corruptie in het Parlementaire Assemblee van de Raad van Europa

The investigative body has exposed the corruption within our Assembly incisively, and I would like to thank them for that, just as I would like to thank the rapporteur for the proposals for the follow up.

The report actually prevents us from just continuing with our work, as if nothing has happened. The level of corruption is alarming and we are all responsible to make sure that we get rid of it, and return to the highest level of integrity. Not only for the Assembly. This corruption has also affected the credibility of all institutions of the Council of Europe, institutions that have nothing to do with it, but who can’t defend themselves like the Court. We have to conclude that the Assembly is the weakest part of the Council of Europe, as we have failed to be resistant to attacks on our integrity. It is for us, but also for the Council of Europe as a whole that we take up this matter with the highest sense of urgency.

One member state has hijacked the Assembly through a small group of criminals. This has proved to be true, but it is not the whole truth. Many members must have been receptive to bribery, and also other states are probably involved in attempts to buy positive conclusions, votes or changes of resolutions. Former members have violated the rules on integrity by influencing our positions in exchange for money.

These facts has affected the credibility, and therefore the effectiveness of the Council of Europe. Yet 750 million citizens are depending on our credibility for being able to invoke their rights, in many cases against repressive regimes. It is highly urgent that we make our system resistant against corruption, including against those repressive regimes who want to ensure that they can continue violating the human rights of their people. So urgent action is needed, on all different levels of the Assembly.

It starts with the political groups, who have a heavy responsibility for the conduct of their members. They should have a transparent code of conduct, and have a system of scrutiny for the nomination of rapporteurs and other positions in the Assembly, and for the observance of elections.

On the committee level, there should be a better scrutiny of the absence of a conflict of interest of a rapporteur. For the Assembly as a whole, we should immediately adopt and apply all recommendations of the Greco committee. Still 40 percent is not yet applied. There should be a register for gifts with a lower budgetary threshold as it has now. A code of conduct should be adopted and published and our rules should be strengthened. But vital is of course the enforcement of the rules and obligations. And therefore sanctions and other consequences should also be part of the rules.

An external ethical committee which is very accessible and has adequate competences should be established, possible for the Council of Europe as a whole. Unfortunately, an ethical committee consisting of our members, does not offer sufficient guarantees.

Furthermore it is important that staff members are loyal to the members, but even more important that they can remain loyal to our rules and values. This requires that we empower and support them to do so and that we offer them adequate protection so that they can speak out and resist attempts of members and former members. The Assembly should therefore urge our Secretariat General to make sure that the personnel feel safe to do their work in full integrity. Also for them, the ethical committee should be accessible.

The members and former members who have proved to be corrupt, have to be punished. But we are all responsible to make sure that this will not happen again. We need reforms and as the rapporteur rightly says, we need a thorough change of culture.