5th Jun 2023

Far-right opposed EU ethics body to fight corruption

  • After much delay, the EU Commission is set to propose a new inter-institutional ethics body (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

Far-right and conservative MEPs either opposed or abstained from a vote on setting up an independent ethics committee to weed out corruption across all EU institutions.

The vote held in Strasbourg on Thursday (16 February) comes in the wake of the on-going fallout of a Qatargate scandal that has shaken the European Parliament.

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

Although 388 MEPs supported the proposal for the anti-corruption committee, another 72 voted against while 76 abstained.

The 72 naysayers include most of the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) as well as other far-right nationalists like Nicolas Bay from France and Dutchman Marcel de Graaff.

Almost all of the members from Hungary's leading party Fidesz abstained, including former European Parliament vice-president Lívia Járóka.

The European Commission is now set to present its proposal for the ethics body sometime next month after having floated the idea over three years ago.

Earlier this week, the EU commissioner for transparency Vera Jourova, said the inter-institutional body would serve as a "preventative measure at upfront respect of clear rules."

"The inter-institutional body will allow the institutions to benefit from their mutual experiences to learn from each other," she said.

But Thursday's vote in the plenary in Strasbourg sets down a wish-list of powers and rules for the body ahead of the Jourova's proposal.

Supporters have hailed the vote as an important step towards improving integrity in the EU institutions.

"After the Qatargate scandal and despite the right's attempts to block it, the time for action has finally come," Manon Aubry, co-president of the Left group, tweeted.

Similar comments came from German Green Daniel Freund who had been pressing for the creation of an ethics body for years.

"The EU ethics body must have teeth. Self-regulation must be replaced, not supplemented by an advisory body," he said, in an emailed statement.

Freund has accused the European Commission of dragging its feet on the issue, noting that the EU institution has also seen its share of lobby scandals.

This includes former Jose Manuel Barroso, who landed a job at Goldman Sachs shortly after ending his term as commission president.

Other notable cases include German former commissioner Guenther Oettinger who took on 17 jobs during his two-year cooling off period, as well as former commission vice-president turned Uber lobbyist Neelie Kroes.

The MEPs on Thursday want the future ethics body to start investigations on its own and to conduct on-the-spot investigations.

They also said it should be able to act on its own initiative.

And they want negotiations on its creation to start even it means the body only initially covers the EU parliament and the Commission out of fear that the Council, representing member states, will drag out talks.

But crucially an amendment to also empower the body with binding decisions failed to muster enough support.

Almost all of the centre-right EPP and liberals at Renew Europe rejected it, along with the far-right ID and the conservatives at ECR.

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.


Why are rightwing MEPs now going after NGOs?

It's become clear Qatargate is being used by rightwing MEPs to cast doubt on civil society. For them, the sometimes successful campaigns by often under-financed and understaffed NGOs is a pain — it counters their private sector and neo-liberal ideology.


Hungary's EU funds and corruption in focus This WEEK

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn is set to travel to Budapest on Tuesday (2 May) as negotiations to unlock billions of EU funds, held up because of concerns over judicial independence, made some progress last week.


What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.


Poland and Hungary's ugly divorce over Ukraine

What started in 2015 as a 'friends-with-benefits' relationship between Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, for Hungary and Poland, is ending in disgust and enmity — which will not be overcome until both leaders leave.

Latest News

  1. Subcontracting rules allow firms to bypass EU labour rights
  2. Asylum and SLAPP positions in focus This WEEK
  3. Spanish PM to delay EU presidency speech due to snap election
  4. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  5. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  6. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  7. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  8. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us