Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

Belgian MEP blames assistant for industry-scripted amendments

  • Belgian MEP says copy-paste amendment job not his fault (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Louis Michel, a top Belgian liberal MEP, took off to Mali on Friday (22 November) amid a media storm that his office copy-pasted over 150 business-friendly amendments to the EU data protection bill.

Michel is said to have been unaware of the tabled amendments and blamed his assistant, who reportedly resigned on Friday.

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

Some 229 amendments were tabled in his name, of which 158 weaken the reformed EU data protection regulation currently under legislative review by member states.

The MEP, a former minister for foreign affairs and European Commissioner, is better known for working on development policy in Africa than in delving into technical data protection issues.

He also co-chairs the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, a body that brings together euro-deputies and elected representatives from African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

But Lobbyplag, a website that tracks amendments tabled by MEPs, ranks Michel as the second worst offender when it comes to plugging holes in the EU data protection bill.

In a Panorama documentary aired on Belgian television Thursday evening, Michel admitted to not being an expert on the heavily-lobbied bill, which saw a near record-busting 4,000 amendments.

Michel claims the industry-scripted amendments were tabled electronically by his assistant and without his knowledge while he was abroad.

He told Belgian media, after the documentary had been aired, that he would retract up to 90 of them.

But Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes does not buy the argument.

He described Michel’s tabling of over 220 technical amendments on an issue he does not follow as “madness."

“When you discover that an assistant, behind your back, tabled amendments which you do not support, you ask the committee concerned to withdraw all of them,” Staes told this website.

Staes says that from a political perspective, an MEP is “always responsible for what your people do, so you take your responsibility.”

Amendments tabled electronically also still require a paper version with an original signature, said Staes.

Parliament insiders say that it is common practice for assistants to sign amendments in their MEPs' place, but normally they have permission first.

Asked to comment, Michel’s office told this website he was unavailable because he had left to observe an election in Mali.

Meanwhile, Brussels-based pro-transparency group, Corporate Europe Observatory, has filed an official complaint against the Africa-bound deputy.

In a letter addressed to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, the group notes that Michel may have breached the parliament’s code of conduct.

The code states that MEPs must “observe the following general principles of conduct: disinterest, integrity, openness, diligence, honesty, accountability and respect for parliament’s reputation."

The transparency NGO also pointed out that Michel’s version of the events is not credible.

“It is hard to believe that Louis Michel signed a pile of 229 amendments without knowing the content,” says CEO, noting that a signed paper version must follow any electronic submissions.

MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship

Two MEPs have withdrawn their nominations from the MEPs Awards over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis's participation as a sponsor — currently involved in an alleged bribery scandal in Greece.

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Interpreters at the European Parliament are fed up with remote interpretation, citing auditory health issues given the poor quality of the online sessions.

Column

'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements

Some modest headway in recognising the unrelenting tide of discrimination and violence facing women worldwide was made at last week's largely self-congratulatory and mostly irrelevant G7 talk-fest. But no one mentioned abortion, just days after the Roe vs Wade decision.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us