EU Plans Anti-Corruption Law For Firms
The EU has voted for a draft anti-corruption law to make it illegal for oil, gas and mining companies to give illicit payments to officials in resource-rich nations that lack strong governance.
The proposed legislation in the European Parliament comes after US pressure and mirrors America's foreign corrupt practices act (FCPA).
Pressure has mounted on the EU to take a tough line after the American regulator in August set demanding rules for US-listed firms.
The series of votes in Brussels backed detailed reporting to regulatory authorities starting from a minimum threshold of 80,000 euro (£65,000), almost identical to the $100,000 US requirement and far lower than the $1m (£615,000) level some resource firms had suggested.
In contrast to the US rules, the EU is also proposing to include the forestry industry, banking, construction and telecommunication sectors on a less detailed level than those for extractive industries.
Campaign groups were swift to welcome the European decisions, although the draft rules will only become law following further negotiations and approval by EU member states.
The US has previously exposed corrupt payments from EU firms, including BAE Systems and France's Thomson-CSF, to local officials in developing nations - allowing American firms to then pick up the contracts.
A European law similar to the FCPA will also help the US - the EU's major trade competitor in defence and technology - seek redress in EU jurisdictions.
Geopolitical experts have long observed corruption permeating less-developed states rich in mineral, energy and other commodities - known as the resource curse.
Pro-transparency charity Global Witness believes the vote takes Europe one step closer to shining light on billions of euros paid to governments - which risk corrupt siphoning of funds - by so-called extractive companies.
Global Witness head of oil campaign Brendan O'Donnell said: "A final EU directive which includes the elements set out... today would be good for industry and citizens alike.
"Information on payments will give citizens more power to track the money being paid to governments in resource-rich countries to combat oil and mineral sector corruption.
"The question now is whether member states will follow through and agree a similarly strong proposal in negotiations with parliament."