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Anti-corruption: progress to be made for France

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body, published a report on 9 January 2020 in which it highlights France’s failing in the fight against corruption.

In particular, the report encourages France to implement the effectiveness of the existing anti-corruption system, in particular with regard to the national executive, police and gendarmerie.

GRECO begins by noting the adoption of significant legislative provisions, such as the establishment of a multiannual plan to combat corruption and the establishment of the High Authority for Transparency in Public Life, the French Anti-Corruption Agency and the National Financial Prosecutor's Office.

However, GRECO highlights certain elements that could be improved, starting with the declarations of assets and interests of the President of the Republic. According to the report, introducing a review of these declarations as soon as the President takes office would avoid situations of conflict of interest, such as the public register of deportations that concerns ministers. The report also recommends the extension of the multi-year anti-corruption plan to the Office of the President of the Republic, which for the time being is simply applied to ministries.

Moreover, the relationship between the Executive and interest groups is considered too opaque by GRECO, which recommends that the France make public the nature of the relations that may be maintained between interest groups and the Executive, so that citizens are able to understand to what extent these interest groups can influence policy measures.

In general, the report stresses the importance for France to be transparent at the executive level, given the demand of French citizens towards their political leaders. With this in mind, GRECO considers that the fact that ministers suspected of having committed criminal offences in the course of their duties are judged by the Court of Justice of the Republic implies the risk that this situation will include failures in terms of impartiality, and that it will generate mistrust towards. GRECO therefore recommends that these criminal offences be tried by another court in which citizens could more easily place their trust.

In addition to the Executive, GRECO is looking at the national police and gendarmerie by raising the issue of the establishment of a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of corruption. This strategy could include security controls to analyse the risks of corruption of agents. It would thus be a question of carrying out checks as soon as the agents take up their duties, and of repeating these checks on a regular basis as and when the individuals concerned develop professionally and personally.

Moreover, GRECO deplores the lack of effectiveness of the law of 9 December 2016 on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernisation of economic life, known as "Sapin 2", which created a general regime for the protection of whistleblowers. According to the report, it would be appropriate to review this law in order to minimize the complexity of its application and optimize the protection of whistleblowers.

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