State of the Union: NATO's birthday and corruption in Europe

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Belgium's Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, April 4, 2024
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, right, and Belgium's Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, April 4, 2024 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Stefan Grobe
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

In this edition of State of the Union, we look at NATO celebrating its 75th anniversary against the backdrop of growing Russian hybrid warfare. Another topic is corruption in Europe - did politicians learn their lesson?


We had a big birthday party in town this week: NATO marked its 75th anniversary.

There will be a real celebration in Washington in the summer, but the event was deemed so important that top officials came to Brussels for the occasion – and for a small party.

And there was one special guest who traveled all the way from the archives of the US government to NATO headquarters: the original North Atlantic treaty.

A historic document that solidified 75 years of collective defense across Europe and North America.

The anniversary came as the alliance discussed plans to provide more predictable longer-term military support to Ukraine.

"We need to shift the dynamics of our support," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"We must ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine for the long haul. So that we rely less on voluntary contributions and more on NATO commitments. Less on short-term offers and more on multi-year pledges.”

At the NATO meeting, participants also discussed Russia’s aggressive behaviour in terms of hybrid warfare – directed not only against Ukraine, but against the European peace order in general.

Vladimir Putin, Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said, aims to undermine and erode democracies in Europe from within: “We must not be naive there either. What we have seen in recent years was not a coincidence, but targeted destabilisation in various European countries, with disinformation and cyber-attacks.”

The reason why she went after Putin is a brewing scandal known in early reports as “Russiagate”.

Politicians from several EU countries stand accused of being bribed by Moscow to parrot the Kremlin’s talking points.

The idea is to sway EU public opinion ahead of the European elections in June.

A right-wing lawmaker from Germany has allegedly accepted €25,000 to do just this.

If this isn’t textbook corruption... 

We spoke to a man who knows a thing or two about corruption, Nicholas Aiossa, director of Transparency International EU. 

Euronews: So, if you look at the last term of the European Parliament especially with the so-called Qatargate scandal, has corruption in the EU become a bigger problem than it was before?

Aiossa: I don't think it has become bigger. I think it's become more brazen. I mean, the fact that we have sitting MEPs, ex MEPs and EU staff members, walking around with suitcases of cash, as if they can operate without fear of consequences, is a real problem. And I think that that has become a problem because the institutions haven't taken the necessary reforms, on their ethical and anti-corruption frameworks. 

The institutions, particularly the Council, haven't adopted the anti-corruption directive. And the Commission needs to more rigorously use the preventative and punitive tools that they have at their disposal to fight corruption. And until those things happen, I think it will only get worse.


Euronews: On that note, there is still no independent oversight and monitoring of the conduct of members of Parliament – why hasn’t the institution been more serious about reform?

Aiossa: Because I'm afraid that there's been a culture of impunity that has been allowed to fester for decades, that has prevented the necessary reforms in the wake of the scandal. There remains no, as you say, independent oversight on their ethical behaviour. And when there are violations of the rules, there's no sanctions, that are put into place and there's and they're not strong enough to serve as a deterrent. And that culture will unfortunately remain until some of those reforms are put in place.

Euronews: There are obviously huge differences when it comes to corruption in member states. How did that play out over the last five years, has this become a real threat to democracy?

Aiossa: Yes, corruption and the erosion of rule of law is always a threat to democracy. And unfortunately over, I would say, the last ten years we have seen a steady decline in certain member states when it comes to rule of law, and, and the ability to fight corruption. I think one of the main problems, despite some recent improvements, in the toolbox of the Commission being able to tackle this, is that they have been too apprehensive and too skittish about using those tools to address situations in the member states.

Euronews: I'd like to close on a positive note - how confident are you that the political class in Europe has learned its lesson?


Aiossa: I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to give you that positive note, unfortunately. I'm not as confident, and particularly in the last year, than I would want to be at this stage. I just simply don't think that the Parliament at least, understood the gravity of the scandal and the response to it was ultimately weak and meagre. And when it came to the vote, very weak and meagre adjustments to the rules, were ultimately agreed. 

They didn't tackle the structural problems when it comes to independent oversight or sanctions. I mean, we still have MEPs that are walking around with very lucrative side jobs with companies that are lobbying the same institutions, and they find this entirely normal. And I think they're doing themselves, and the reputation of the Parliament great harm. And unfortunately, in an election year, there is still perhaps time to turn that around. And I hope they use these next eight weeks to do so.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

Russian attack on NATO would end in defeat for Moscow, Polish foreign minister says

State of the Union: Macron drives aggressive Ukraine agenda as farmers continue protests

First-time EU voters in Athens speak on the issues that matter to them