The energy sector is one of the most important and strategic sectors in the European Union (EU), as it provides essential services to citizens and businesses, supports economic growth and competitiveness, and contributes to the transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future. However, the energy sector is also vulnerable to corruption, which can undermine its efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity, as well as erode public trust and confidence in the institutions and actors involved.
Corruption in the energy sector can take various forms, such as bribery, fraud, embezzlement, nepotism, favoritism, collusion, abuse of power, or influence peddling. It can affect different stages of the energy value chain, from policy-making and regulation to production, transmission, distribution, and consumption. It can also involve different actors, such as public officials, private companies, intermediaries, civil society organizations, or consumers.
The EU has adopted a comprehensive and ambitious anti-corruption framework that applies to the energy sector as well as other sectors of the economy and society. The EU anti-corruption framework consists of several elements, such as:
– Legal instruments that establish common standards and obligations for the prevention and prosecution of corruption offences, such as the Convention on the Protection of the European Communities’ Financial Interests (1995), the Convention on the Fight against Corruption involving Officials of the European Communities or Officials of Member States of the European Union (1997), or the Directive on the Protection of Persons Reporting on Breaches of Union Law (2019).
– Policy initiatives that provide guidance and support for the implementation and enforcement of anti-corruption measures, such as the EU Anti-Corruption Report (2014), the EU Anti-Corruption Scoreboard (2016), or the EU Rule of Law Mechanism (2020).
– Financial instruments that allocate funds and resources for anti-corruption projects and programs, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), or the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI).
– Institutional mechanisms that monitor and evaluate the anti-corruption performance and progress of the EU and its member states, such as the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), or the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
– External actions that promote anti-corruption cooperation and dialogue with third countries and international organizations, such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, or the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
The EU anti-corruption policies have had a significant impact on the energy industry in Europe, both at the EU level and at the national level. Some of the main achievements and challenges are:
– At the EU level, the EU has developed a robust regulatory framework for the internal energy market that aims to ensure fair competition, transparency, accountability, and consumer protection. The EU has also adopted several legislative measures to enhance energy security and diversification, such as the Regulation on Security of Gas Supply (2017), or the Regulation on Electricity Risk-Preparedness (2019). Moreover, the EU has launched several initiatives to foster clean energy innovation and investment, such as the European Green Deal (2019), or the Innovation Fund (2020).
– At the national level, many member states have taken steps to reform their energy sectors and address corruption risks. For example, some member states have established independent regulatory authorities for energy markets; others have strengthened their public procurement systems for energy contracts; others have improved their oversight and audit mechanisms for state-owned energy enterprises; others have increased their public disclosure and participation mechanisms for energy policies; others have enhanced their whistleblower protection schemes for energy sector employees; others have intensified their law enforcement actions against corruption cases in the energy sector.
– However, despite these positive developments, there are still many challenges and gaps that need to be addressed. For example, some member states still face political interference or capture in their energy sectors; others still lack adequate resources or capacities for effective anti-corruption enforcement; others still face difficulties in prosecuting high-level corruption cases in the energy sector; others still encounter resistance or backlash from vested interests or stakeholders in their anti-corruption reforms; others still struggle with cross-border cooperation or coordination in tackling corruption cases in the energy sector.
In conclusion, corruption is a serious threat to the energy sector in Europe that requires constant vigilance and action from all actors involved. The EU has played a key role in setting up a comprehensive and ambitious anti-corruption framework that applies to the energy sector as well as other sectors. However, more efforts are needed to ensure its full implementation