Czech Republic criticized in anti-corruption report card
During the same week that Prague saw its biggest anti-corruption protest in 30 years, the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body GRECO published its yearly report card, which singled out the Czech Republic for its low scores.
GRECO President Marin Mrčela explained how the country was ranked.
"The Czech Republic is in so-called non-compliance procedure," he said. "In the last round, they received sixteen recommendations, and none of them were implemented. No wonder the people are not happy."
However, the Czech Republic is not alone. Fifteen other countries including Germany and France also disregarded GRECO's procedures. Hungary did not authorise the publishing of the report, according to a Hungarian MEP.
"What we know about the GRECO report on Hungary is that is very critical about the corruption situation," said Hungarian MEP Benedek Jávor (Greens).
"I think this was the reason that the government refused to publish the report. By doing so, the government kind of confessed that in Hungary, systemic corruption is dangering public money, especially EU funds."
One of the biggest findings of the GRECO report was how public perceptions of corruptions should not lead to complacency. Nicholas Aiossa is the interim director of Transparency International and said the big focus now should be implementing GRECO's procedures.
"I think it is up to each country, despite some of the rankings in this report, to have due diligence because they can always do better," he said. "Even in times where there is a high score by some member states, I think it is critical that due diligence is coming from all."
GRECO hopes to gradually improve the situation of corruption by focusing on countries' judicial systems, judges and prosecutors.
New rules protect children in cross-border parental disputes
The Council adopted new rules on Tuesday which clarify EU judicial cooperation in cross-border matrimonial matters, such as divorce, child custody and child abduction.
There are over 140,000 international divorces and about 1,800 cases of parental child abduction in the EU each year. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans shared his thoughts on the new rules.
"I am very glad that following our proposal the Council adopted new rules to ensure that any disputes between parents who disagree after separation can be quickly solved. This is about putting children first," he said.
The new measures will come into effect in three years.
Free trade deal with Vietnam approved
Seven years after negotiations began, the EU has approved a free trade deal with Vietman that will eliminate up to 99% of customs duties.
The agreement will be officially signed off on at the end of June in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. This is the second deal between the EU and a Southeast Asian country — the first one being with Singapore.