Brussels - The European Union's own institutions should be probed for corruption, the EU's watchdog said on Tuesday, a day after a senior official described the bloc's graft problem as "breathtaking".
"The EU administration has to live up to the very highest standards", European ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said in a statement, adding that it largely does so and compares favourably with many member states.
However, it should not be complacent, and accordingly, O'Reilly encouraged the European commission to "include the EU institutions in the next anti-corruption report".
She welcomed the publication on Monday of the first such report which found corruption costs the 28 member states some $162bn a year and undermined public confidence in good government.
EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, whose office compiled the report, described the corruption problem as "breathtaking", and a threat to democratic institutions and the economy.
The estimated $162bn lost to corruption is equal to the EU's entire annual budget, and Malmstroem said the actual figure could be even higher.
Concerning only member states, the report did not include the EU's own institutions because these were monitored by the separate court of auditors, the commissioner said.
Another report might be compiled in two years after discussions with national governments on what action could be taken, she added.