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Fraud and corruption


Fraud and corruption pose serious threats to the security and the financial interests of the European Union (EU). Protecting these interests is a priority for the EU institutions, both to put taxpayers’ money to its best use and to tackle organised crime and terrorism, for which corruption provides a fertile breeding ground.

The legal basis for combating fraud and any other illegal activities affecting the EU’s financial interests is Article 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which tasks the EU and the EU Member States with protecting the EU’s budget.

At the EU level, the European Anti-Fraud Office:

  • conducts independent administrative investigations into fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity involving EU funds or revenue, in order to ensure that EU taxpayer money reaches projects that can help create jobs and promote growth in Europe;
  • investigates serious misconduct by staff and members of the EU institutions, thus helping to strengthen public trust in those institutions;
  • develops EU anti-fraud policies in its capacity as a Commission service.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office was established by Regulation (EU) 2017/1939 and is the first EU body entitled to conduct criminal investigations and to prosecute fraud and corruption affecting the EU’s financial interests.

The European Commission tackles corruption at both the EU and international levels, notably through its Directorates-General for Migration and Home Affairs and for Justice and Consumers.

Corruption creates business uncertainty, lowers investment levels and prevents the single market from operating smoothly. Most importantly, it undermines trust in governments, public institutions and democracy in general.

The EU institutions aim to:

  • streamline and modernise the set of legal rules impacting on corruption;
  • monitor developments to combat corruption in Member States, as part of the European semester framework;
  • support the implementation of national anti-corruption measures through funding, technical assistance and experience-sharing.

Article 83(1) TFEU recognises corruption as a ‘euro-crime’, listing it among particularly serious crimes with a cross-border dimension. 

Article 83(2) TFEU allows the establishment of minimum rules on the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in areas that have been subject to harmonisation. This applies when the approximation of criminal laws of the Member States proves essential to ensuring the effective implementation of EU policies in that area. Based on this Article, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted the Directive (EU) 2017/1371 on the fight against fraud to the EU’s financial interests by means of criminal law.