Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

MEPs demand right to summon and sanction

  • Paper tiger? (Photo: European Parliament)

MEPs want to give the European Parliament's committees of inquiry sweeping new powers following a vote in Strasbourg (24 May).

Under the proposals made by David Martin, the British centre-left MEP leading parliament's negotiations on the regulation, committees would be given new powers including the right to conduct on-the-spot investigations at EU and national level, demand access to documents and summon witnesses to give evidence.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Parliament also wants to establish clear sanctions against false testimony, a refusal to appear before the committee and a refusal to grant access to documents.

It wants to work alongside national parliaments in cases where national authorities are being investigated.

Parliament has set up just three committees of inquiry since the provision was introduced in 1995. The most recent one was into the collapse of insurance giant Equitable Life, which reported back in 2007.

Article 226 of the Lisbon Treaty formalises the its right to initiate an inquiry, a right which also applies to national parliaments.

Meanwhile, MEPs want to beef up their powers amid concerns that recent revisions to the European Ombudsman's statute are making him more important than they are in this area.

Parliament is anxious to avoid a repeat of the Equitable Life case where, after an 18-month inquiry, the UK government refused to respond to its complaints leading to questions about the usefulness of the exercise.

The report concluded that: "The committee has very little power: it cannot summon witnesses, there are no consequences, cost or penalty if a possible witness refuses to cooperate with the inquiry, and there are no sanctions for giving false testimony or for refusing to attend or give evidence before the committee."

In a press statement on Thursday, Martin called on member states to back the new investigatory powers.

He noted that the Equitable Life inquiry floundered because "Parliament lacked the ability to get to the truth, because we could not speak to the people involved. Also, we couldn’t ensure access to the right documents and there were no consequences for people not telling us the truth."

It now needs to broker a deal with national governments and the European Commission.

Maros Sefcovic, the commissioner responsible for inter-institutional relations, this week indicated the EU executive is closer to reaching agreement on the file following what he described as "Parliament's readiness to seek a constructive resolution, which is clearly reflected by the set of compromise amendments."

The commission is unwilling to increase parliament's capacity to investigate allegations of internal malpractice, however.

Stating that inquiry committees are "fundamentally a political rather than legal tool at Parliament's disposal," Sefcovic told MEPs the set of investigative tools on their wishlist is "excessive."

Commission pushes for document secrecy despite court judgement

The EU commission and national governments are seeking to tighten rules granting access to their internal documents despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice calling on them to release legal opinions drafted by the EU Council’s legal service.

EU states appeal court ruling on transparency

EU member states are set to launch an appeal of a lower court decision with the European Court of Justice hoping to prevent greater transparency in decision-making - even about transparency rules themselves.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

Investigation

EU lawmakers under pressure to act on 90,000 asbestos deaths

The EU Commission has watered-down a broad political initiative —but now governments of member states hold the key to what the EU should do. Some member states and regions have adopted asbestos strategies of some kind, from Poland to Flanders.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us