Saturday

19th Oct 2019

Three EU agencies fail MEPs' ethics test

  • Macovei: 'The people in question should resign' (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

MEPs in the budgetary control committee looking at the accounts of EU institutions on Tuesday (27 March) suspended the procedure for three agencies whose staff is said to be too close to the industry they deal with.

The food safety, medicines and environment agencies were given three months' time to publish all the CVs of their staff and experts in order to expose any potential conflicts of interest.

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"I am very happy conflicts of interest are being taken seriously by this parliament, because they can be a cause for fraud and corruption," said Romanian centre-right MEP Monica Macovei, a former justice minister and anti-corruption campaigner in Romania, who drafted the parliament's position on the agencies.

She singled out food industry lobbyists being hired by the food safety agency in Italy, the head of the environment agency in Copenhagen paying out some €33,000 to an NGO for "staff training" in the Caribbean while she was a member of the NGO's advisory board, as well as the former head of the medicine agency switching to one of the pharma companies it had been issuing standards for.

Macovei said the argument used by many agencies - that expertise is hard to find outside the industry - is insufficient. "If you hire someone from Boeing, you can't let them run aviation safety tests on Boeing planes," she said.

"I went to the food safety authority and they said: 'We do check, trust us, we just don't make it public.' No, that is not the point, it should be public," Macovei said, noting that data privacy should not apply to publicly-funded officials or experts disclosing where they used to work.

If the European Parliament in its entirety confirms the vote in May, the three agencies will not be able to close off their accounts for 2010.

"The people in question should resign," Macovei said.

MEPs also unanimously decided to postpone signing off the accounts of the Council of ministers - a routine exercise repeated almost every year.

The symbolic move aims at persuading the council to scrap a 'gentleman's' agreement' dating back to 1970 that the two institutions will not meddle in one other's accounts.

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MEPs are getting ready to vote on whether to punish three EU agencies for using public money for questionable purposes and for tolerating conflicts of interest.

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