Friday

23rd Feb 2024

EU's smallest institution warned on 'threats, blackmail'

  • The EESC is a Brussels-based institution with a €136.5m annual budget tasked to issue opinions on EU law (Photo: EU)

The EU's smallest institution has been told by the European Parliament to protect harassment victims and whistleblowers against "threats, blackmail and bribery attempts."

The demand comes as the next president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) faces possible criminal charges in Belgium over serious harassment claims.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

MEPs on Thursday (14 May) voted in favour of telling the EESC, which bills itself as a platform for civil society, that it must do more to strengthen the effectiveness of its anti-harassment policy.

It says one of the key priorities of those measures must be "real and urgent protection (including against threats, blackmail and bribery attempts) of all of the victims and whistleblowers."

The EU's anti-fraud office Olaf earlier this year alerted Belgian authorities following long-standing allegations of harassment against Jacek Krawczyk.

Krawczyk has denied those claims, depicting them as politically-motivated. He also described one of the victims named by Olaf as a purveyor of fake news.

The EESC is tasked to issue opinions on EU policy and is composed of three groups, each separately dealing with employers (Group I), workers (Group II), and diversity (Group III).

Krawczyk heads the employers' group and was nominated to become the next president of the EESC around the same time Olaf had alerted Belgian authorities.

Krawczyk is set to take up his new position in October.

The EESC has been given until before autumn to respond to the demands made by the European Parliament, which also includes calls for greater transparency.

Home office allowance up due to pandemic

The MEPs lists other problems.

EESC members are entitled to a daily €290 subsistence allowance to cover travel, food, and hotel expenses for attending a meeting.

Last year an EUobserver investigation disclosed that some 30 EESC members already living in Brussels had pocketed the allowance to the tune of around €1.47m over a period of several years. One admitted to spending it on her apartment.

The EESC is itself based in Brussels.

To get the money, a member must sign in at the start of the meeting. But when asked to also require the same members to sign in at the end of the meeting, the EESC refused.

MEPs are now demanding the EESC improve its working methods and report back.

That demand follows an April decision by the EESC's internal administration, known as the Bureau, to temporarily increase its total IT allowance by over €600,000 to buy equipment like telephones and computers. Each member's allowance will go from around €3,000 to €5,000 this year, during the pandemic.

The EESC says it is needed because members are teleworking from home due to the outbreak, although they won't get the money until after the summer.

Cristiano Sebastiani, the head of the RD trade union defending staff rights at the EESC, says the increase doesn't make sense.

"Why have they decided to increase this in IT, while now perhaps we are going out of confinement?" he said, describing the hike as a gift to members.

For its part, the EESC says they are busy working on issues linked to the pandemic. It says the EESC Bureau and plenary session are focusing on the most important and urgent legislative procedures linked to the coronavirus crisis and recovery plan.

"Gradually the agendas will be open to other topics, as we hope to return to a normal situation in the coming months," an EESC spokesperson, said in an email late April.

Exclusive

Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe

A Polish official seeking to become president of the European Economic and Social Committee, a minor EU institution, could face Belgian charges for psychological harassment after the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf alerted authorities.

Investigation

The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

Top lobbyist defends alleged bully set to chair EU body

Alleged bully Jacek Krawczyk is facing possible criminal charges in Belgium following serious complaints of harassment. Krawczyk is set to become president of the EESC, an EU body. BusinessEurope, a lobbyist outfit, is speaking out in his defence.

Opinion

Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?

Months after Black Lives Matter erupted, for many EU decision-makers the problems of racism in policing and criminal legal systems - the issues that sparked the George Floyd protests - are still 'over there', across the Atlantic.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Feature

Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza

Despite the high risk of dying from war, starvation or disease, Gazans are still not allowed to enter Egypt. Except those who bribe the authorities. And the EU mission EUBAM Rafah cannot be deployed due to security reasons.

Latest News

  1. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  2. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  3. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament
  4. Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work
  5. EU auditors: rule-of-law budget protections only partial success
  6. EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain
  7. Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR
  8. Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us