28th Sep 2023

MEPs' integrity vote skirts binding anti-corruption reforms

  • MEPs adopted another non-binding report to stamp out corruption, while the real binding reforms are being discussed behind closed doors (Photo: © European Union 2023 - Source : EP)
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MEPs on Thursday (13 July) passed another integrity resolution on the European Parliament that is unlikely to have any practical effect.

The non-binding resolution, tabled by centre-right Slovak Vladimír Bilčík and French liberal Nathalie Loiseau, is among a series of similar declarations passed by the European Parliament to counter corruption since the eruption of the 'Qatargate' scandal last December.

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"There is no point in passing a bunch of non-binding resolutions on your own institution, when you could unilaterally change your own institution's rules right now and they just haven't done it," responded Nick Aiossa, deputy director of Transparency International EU.

"And now they're about to do it possibly watering down some of the existing rules in the code of conduct. It's just incredible," he said.

At best, Thursday's resolution sends a political message to the public that MEPs are taking the issue of accountability with some seriousness.

At worst, it's bluster to cover the real binding changes that have been discussed for the past two and half months in a confidential working group attached to the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee (Afco).

The group was set up following a 14-point reform proposal by European Parliament president Roberta Metsola.

It is tasked to tweak the rules of procedure, which are internal and binding, as well as the code of conduct for MEPs.

But it is also chaired by Rainer Wieland, a German centre-right MEP and vice-president, who has in the past taken a tough stand against greater transparency of MEPs.

Wieland is also a staunch defender of the so-called freedom of mandate, a concept that gives MEPs a wide berth to skirt accountability.

The group, composed of seven MEPs, also includes German socialist Gabriele Bischoff, German green Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, and French socialist Gilles Boyer.

On Thursday, Wieland along with the entire centre-right European People's Party (bar MEP Maria Spyraki), voted against an amendment that sought to create a two-year cooling off period for departing MEPs. So did most Renew Europe MEPs.

The two-year period was among the reforms proposed by Metsola, which has since been reduced to six months.

Another key MEP to follow suit on binding internal rule changes is socialist Gabriele Bischoff.

Bischoff is the Afco lead on amending the rules of procedure to reflect the reforms proposed by Metsola. But her recently published draft report appears to have watered-down demands made by her own group, as well as the existing rules.

This includes not having to declare paid activities if the total amount doesn't exceed €5,000 a year. Her report is set to be voted early September, around a week before the plenary.

The timing, after summer holiday, is likely to make it difficult for MEPs to dig into the report's substance.

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