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The Corruption Crisis of the European Commission
The Corruption Scandal of the European Commission and its possible effects on the institutional balance and the question of legitimacy
I. Defining Corruption
The first chapter is an attempt to define corruption. It is important to divide overlapping and complicated terms such as corruption, scandal and fraud. Corruption is defined as an illegal transaction, where both actors benefit from their special position in the market or the government. Scandal is the public reaction to allegations of corruption and thus it is interconnected with the issue of legitimacy. Fraud, however is a purely criminal cathegory.
The European Commission is a multicultural and multinational institution of the European Union so it is vital to take into account the cultural relativity of the meaning of corruption. Corruption can only be defined within a specific society and at a specific time. This culture specific aspect of corruption is reflected in the division of so called black, white and grey corruption.
Black corruption in a given society is a repremanded behaviour both by the public and by experts. It is a well defined area of the untolerated behaviour. White corruption on the other hand is the behaviour that is tolerated by the public in a given society and not looked upon as misbehaviour. Grey corruption is the area in between, which is tolerated by a part of the society, while seen as corruption by the other part. It is also important to realize the dynamics of the definition of corruption, as it changes with geography or time from black to grey to white corruption (or vica versa). Corruption scandals are often only a sign of this change in the public perception of corruption.
These cultural differences can be observed in the member states of the European Union. There is a dividing line on the imaginary corruption scale between the Northern protestant countries (Denmark being the least corrupt) and the Southern catholic countries (with Italy at the lowest end of the corruption scale).
The corruption in the Mediterranian countries can be identified along the lines of amoral familiarism, and the constant use of mediators. The cause of this southern type of corruption is the relative weakness of tthe central government and the inefficiency of the buerocracy. These madiators came to be the only effective channels between central governments and peripheries. They were the seeds of organized crime of the maffia for example, which integrated into the central government.
In the northern part of the continent there is more emphasis on the notions of incompatibility and the conflict of interest. There are problems however around the financing of political parties.
II. The Organization of the European Commission
The Commission is at thte heart of the Union. It has a very important role in formulating policies, initiating legislation, overseeing implementation, make administrative decisions.
The Commission had a great impact on the poltics of the Communities from the earliest times. The ambitions of the Commission to gain more influence in European decision-making caused frequent conflict with the Council of Ministers, which saw the strengthening of the supranational Commission as a main threat to the souvereignity of the member states. This conflict was accentuated at the Luxembourg crisis in 1965, which was the greatest institutional crisis of the Community. The crisis was caused by De Gaulle`s resistance of the Commission`s proposal of introducing majority voting in the Council instead of unanimity. The French President paralysed the working of the Community by practicing the "empty chair" politics, boykotting the Council of Ministers. The crisis was solved by he Luxembourg compromise, which kept the veto of the member states.
The first sign of corruption in the Commission was the 1979 report of the Court of Auditors, which accused the commissioners of using the community funds for private purposes and scrunitized the Commission of the reckless spending of he resources.
The European Commission can be divided to a political and an administrative arm. The political arm is the College of Commissioners. The College of Commissioners is responsible to provide political leadership for the Commission. It is a collegiate body of 20 commissioners nominated by the member states. Commissioners must act independently and represent the general interest of the Community. Comissioners are usually high calibre polititians from the member states, many being prime ministers or senior ministers prior to their post on the European Commissioners. They act as an informal channel between the Community
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