4th Feb 2023

EU Parliament to present 14 point anti-corruption reform

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The European Parliament is set to unveil proposals to crack down on corruption following the on-going scandal over alleged Qatari and Morocco influence peddling.

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola on Thursday (12 January) will present an anti-corruption package spanning some 14 proposals in the hope of preventing a repeat of a bribery scandal that has landed her former vice-president Eva Kaili in jail.

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Among the key proposals are plans to prevent former MEPs from taking up immediate lobbying jobs in what is known as a cooling off period.

Metsola also wants to ban so-called "friendship groups", often used by foreign states as a backdoor entry into lobbying the European Parliament via friendly MEPs.

Among them was a EU-Qatar friendship group, chaired by centre-right Romanian MEP Cristian Silviu Bușoi between 2019 until 2021.

His office told EUobserver that the group had been inactive since spring 2019 until 2021 given that Bușoi had also taken up the chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

"Please also note that he did not receive cash, gifts, support or other forms of any kind of interests to declare before, during and after his mandate as Chair of the Friendship Group or before and during his membership period," said his office.

Similar comments were made by José Ramón Bauzá Díaz, a liberal Spanish MEP, who become chair of the EU-Qatar Friendship group in 2021.

Ramón Bauzá Díaz said that they had exchanged with Qatar's ambassador to the EU but that no official events were made on behind of the friendship group.

Ramón Bauzá Díaz said he had suspended the group on 12 December, 2022.

"I have never received a single euro from anyone for defending anything. It has not been offered to me either," he told EUobserver, in an email in December.

He also said that he never tabled any amendments on Qatar and that he is neither a member of the civil liberties committee (Libe) or the sub-committee on human rights (Droi).

Metsola's plan also entails tightening of the guidelines for the publication of lobby meetings, noting all MEPs will be obliged to do so when scheduled meetings deal with European Parliament decisions.

She will also be demanding more transparency on MEPs' side incomes and financial interests.

"These proposals are a big step in the right direction. They contain some long overdue reforms that we and others have been campaigning for for many years," said Michiel van Hulten, Director of Transparency International EU, in an emailed statement.

However, van Hulten noted some shortcomings.

"The Parliament continues to rely entirely on self-enforcement of the rules. We know that doesn't work," he said.

A self-policing committee composed of five MEPs known as the Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members has so far led to zero sanctions.

Van Hulten said a better solution would be independent, outside oversight.

German Green MEP Daniel Freund also noted that the reform package doesn't include the extension of the EU lobby register to third countries, the establishment of a special committee to deal with the "Qatar-Gate" scandal or detailed asset declarations by MEPs.

"Disclosure of MEPs' assets at the beginning and end of the legislature is perhaps the strongest incentive against accepting bribes," he said, in a statement.

Qatargate? EU parliament's culture of impunity is its own creation

EU parliament president Roberta Metsola blamed "malign actors linked to autocratic third countries" for the Qatargate corruption scandal. But the parliament's Bureau has for years seeded a culture of impunity where MEPs can get away with almost anything.

Leading MEP defends expenses secrecy

The man tasked with making the EP more transparent has said there are more important issues than making MEP monthly expenses public.

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

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