"Corruption hurts the poor": MEPs back report on development aid and the fight against corruption.

MEPs have called for tougher measures in the fight against corruption and more effective EU aid. Noting that 25% of Africa's GDP is lost annually to corruption, - the report calls on all EU members to implement the OECD and UN Conventions on corruption and for greater accountability and openness in EU aid programmes. Good governance, media freedom, developing budget capacity in developing countries and boosting civil society "watchdogs" are just some measures proposed

MEPs are calling for a blacklist of regimes and representatives of corrupt governments in order to improve the effectiveness of the EU's development policy. The EU is the world's largest aid donor. The African Union estimates that corruption accounts for 25% of Africa's annual GDP - around $148 bn - and is stifling the continent's chances of taking off economically.

The report stresses that all actors have a role to play in the fight against corruption: politicians, government officials, civil society, media and multinationals. The international community can also play a part. Parliament urges EU Member States to ratify the OECD Convention on the Bribery of Public Officials (1997) and the UN Convention against Corruption (2003).

MEPs would like to go further and they ask the Commission and the Member States to establish an "international system of blacklisting to prevent banks from lending large sums of money to corrupt regimes or individuals representing a government".

What the developing countries can do

MEPs want national parliaments which, like those in the EU, have budgetary powers to have greater influence in the supervision of public finances. They underline the need for civil society in developing countries to establish watchdogs, with a system of checks and balances on governments. The Commission, they say, should support this process by reserving part of budget aid for such watchdogs.

What Europe can do

The report calls for more transparency in the European Union's aid budget programmes, with the publication of information on the aid spent in each recipient country. It also recommends that "budget aid should always be earmarked for a specific sector, reducing the risk of corruption or mismanagement of funds". Increasingly at present, EU development aid goes directly into the national coffers of recipient countries in the form of budget support, and the proportion has grown from 14% in 2001 to around 30% in 2004.

Finally, MEPs call on Member States, with major financial centres on their territory, to take legal and administrative measures to ensure that funds acquired illegally are repatriated to their country of origin. Africa is still a net exporter of capital to European countries.

[Source: European Parliament, Development and cooperation, 08abr06]

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