The fight against corruption in Europe has taken a positive turn, but still more needs to be done.
The Council of Europe's anti-corruption body GRECO (Group of States against Corruption), says in its latest report that there were slight improvements from member states complying with their anti-corruption recommendations in 2019.
But there are two areas which remain a concern. Firstly, countries were falling behind on battling corruption when it comes to MPs.
The percentage of countries implementing GRECO's recommendations on tackling corruption among politicians was around 26 per cent.
"That's very low," said Gianluca Esposito, secretary-general of GRECO.
The recommendations for politicians included rules on receiving gifts, donations and other benefits. If any are accepted they should be recorded, says GRECO, including the type of gift and the donor, to improve transparency.
The second area of concern is the continuing attacks on the independence of the judiciary in some member states.
"This explains, not justifies, but explains the low level of trust of the population in politics," adds Esposito.
The report comes against a backdrop of mass protests in EU countries in the past year alleging corruption and fraud, most notably from Malta, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.
More money, more problems
The European Commission has announced a massive €750 billion recovery fund as well as a €1.1 trillion EU budget, which member states will receive money from.
Reports have emerged in the past of misuse of EU funds, so there are concerns this new money pot could be open to abuse.
A European Parliament-commissioned study in 2016 claimed corruption costs EU countries up to €990 billion a year in terms of losses to gross domestic product.
GRECO has published guidelines to safeguard EU money which include adequate checks and balances, transparency and accountability. Gianluca Esposito argues that if applied correctly these measures would prevent money "going to the wrong hands".
Another option is to create an EU blacklist of companies which were convicted of corruption and to ban them from EU tenders for five years. That is the suggestion from Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh.
"In these trying times when every single euro cent is needed for our economic recovery and for our green transition, we can not let our money go to waste via corruption," says Cseh.
She also thinks countries who refuse to join the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) should not get any money from Brussels.
Led by Romanian anti-corruption fighter Laura Codruta Kövesi, the EPPO could be a game-changer in the fight against corruption. GRECO is also calling for all EU member states to join the body.
Twenty-two countries have so far signed up: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Slovenia.
Hungary, Poland, and Sweden are yet to join.