The package would enable the EU to introduce entry bans and asset freezes for individuals and entities from third countries if they have committed serious corruption offenses.
The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a proposed series of new measures to combat corruption in the EU, but also worldwide.
With the new directive, the EU wants to harmonise the definition of criminal offenses such as influence peddling and abuse of office across the 27 member states and have these slap criminal sanctions on corruption cases.
"The package will raise the bar in terms of EU-wide definitions and penalties for corruption offences and help authorities catch and punish criminals, whether they come from the public or private sector, wherever they occur," European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said after unveiling the proposal.
"The differences between national definitions of corruption and the associated penalties are too great. This also complicates cross-border investigations and creates loopholes that criminals exploit. "
One element of the proposal is to combat corruption outside Europe. The package would enable the EU to introduce entry bans and asset freezes for individuals and entities from third countries if they have committed serious corruption offenses.
Since December the EU bubble in Brussels has been rocked by its biggest corruption scandal yet with five people — including sitting MEPs and former assistants — accused of participating in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering. For anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, this is proof, the EU should first put its own house in order before targeting foreign corruption suspects.
"The European Union has serious problems with corruption, we have seen that with Qatargate and many other examples. And also certain member states have very serious problems," Roland Papp, Senior Policy Officer at Transparency International, told Euronews.
"So, of course it's very important that we can't do anything abroad when EU citizens go unpunished at home. So it's very important that the EU intensifies its work on this domestically."
To tackle the problem, the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament are calling for a strengthened legal framework and investigative tools, greater cooperation between competent authorities and an increased role for the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO).
"If the Commission is serious about the fight against corruption, they should also make far greater use of the rule of law mechanism and better equip the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Commission must stop dragging its feet and bring about an independent EU Ethics Body to ensure that the EU institutions get their own houses in order," German MEP Daniel Freund, who sits on the Civil Liberties Committee and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
According to the Commission, corruption costs the EU economy around €120 billion every year and undermines confidence in democracy.
The proposed Directive on combating corruption will have to be negotiated and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can become EU law.