28th Mar 2023

MEPs need mandatory anti-harassment training, says chair

  • Only around 200 MEPs — out of 705 in total — have taken anti-harassment courses (Photo: European Parliament)
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Not much has happened since the European Parliament passed a resolution back in December 2021 to stamp out harassment within the institution.

Even minor demands such as making public a list of MEPs who have taken anti-harassment training has yet to materialise.

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"We have a very strong support and political will to change the existing rules in order to introduce mandatory anti-harassment trainings for the MEPs," said Robert Biedroń, a Polish socialist MEP who leads the committee on women's rights and gender equality.

"Unfortunately, this is not to everyone's liking," he said, when asked what was taking so long.

The resolution had been adopted with a 76-percent majority. But last month, this website revealed that only 262 MEPs out of 705 had taken the course.

Biedroń said his committee is determined to make anti-harassment training mandatory.

"You don't need a driving licence to drive a car, but it surely helps to know how to follow the rules," he said.

The comments come after Spanish socialist MEP Mónica Silvana González was penalised for bullying three former assistants, a charge she has denied and appealed.

Earlier this week, she lost that appeal and along with it, received a 30-day suspension of parliamentary duties and an equally-long loss of daily €338 allowances.

The socialist group have since stripped her of her portfolio as the parliament's lead MEP on humanitarian aid, reported Devex media outlet.

González now wants to take her case to the European court in Luxembourg.

EUobserver was given an insight into some of the abuse she is said to have subjected upon one of her assistants.

This includes requiring the assistant to cover up to €700 of Gonzalez's expenses, without getting reimbursed, when her credit card no longer worked.

Other issues include treating the assistant like a personal valet. Those tasks ranged from installing wifi in Gonzalez's apartment to registering her daughter at the European school.

But aside from the personal duties, Gonzalez is also said to have subjected the assistant to personal and professional humiliation, according to an internal EU parliament document, seen by EUobserver.

For her part, Gonzalez maintains her innocence.

As for victims, the issue points to a system that appears to weigh against them.

The sanction against Gonzalez took some 16 months of deliberations, posing questions if others would want to challenge their own alleged abusers.

La Vanguardia, a Spanish newspaper, reported that only around 37 complaints of harassment, either psychological or sexual, were filed by assistants against MEPs between 2014 and 2021.

It is possible several of those complaints may have been filed against one MEP, reported the newspaper.

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