Lately, the Netherlands has failed to improve its defence against corruption at the highest echelons of politics. None of the recommendations formulated by the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body – GRECO – have been addressed, according to the agency’s latest compliance report. There is, however, an improvement in the area of law enforcement.
In 2019, GRECO had issued a series of recommendations to improve the monitoring of corruption and conflicts of interests concerning Dutch ministers, secretaries of state and their advisers. For example, it was recommended that a code of conduct be established regarding the acceptance of gifts and contact with lobbyists. If it was justified, the imposition of sanctions was encouraged.
GRECO regretfully observes that no tangible progress has been made in this regard. The anti-corruption body notes that a code of conduct for political leaders implies far more extensive reform than the planned amendment to the Handbook for government officials, also known as the 'blue book'. The Netherlands is given a year and a half to still show improvement.
GRECO notes that some progress has been made in law enforcement. For example, EncroChat – the encrypted communication system – has shown the cruciality of eliminating corruption in law enforcement.
With the extensive EncroChat investigation, it was revealed that cooperation between criminals and the police was not unheard of. Measures have been taken to improve the security of police information, while the Royal Marechaussee has also codified rules of conduct with examples of integrity dilemmas.
Tackling leaks of confidential information, regular vetting of the police workforce and whistle-blower protection must remain high on the agenda, GRECO urges.
The Council of Europe, not to be confused with the European Council or the Council of the European Union, is an independent organisation founded in 1949. The Netherlands was one of its founders. There are now 47 European countries members, more than the European Union.
Based in the French city of Strasbourg, the Council is the guardian of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, but cannot impose sanctions. However, the organisation does have some jurisdiction. For example, the Council can sue parties before the European Court of Human Rights.