29th Nov 2023

Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'

  • The transparency official argued that it is in the interests of all the MEPs ahead of the 2024 European elections to take action against corruption (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

The European Parliament's internal decision-making body should be looked into as the assembly lacks a serious sanctions regime for rule-breaking MEPs, a key transparency official said.

"I urge you to take a look at how the decisions, when it comes to transparency, integrity, ethics, and anti-corruption are taken in this house, and they are taken primarily through the Bureau," Nick Aiossa, deputy director of Transparency International EU told MEPs on Thursday (26 January).

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

He was speaking at a hearing of the special committee on foreign interference which looked at how Qatar and Morocco influenced and allegedly financed EU lawmakers.

By now, four people have been arrested on preliminary charges amid claims that the governments of Qatar and Morocco gave out cash to get EU politicians to do their bidding.

Aiossa said there is a "culture of impunity" in the parliament among MEPs, which contributed to the Qatargate scandal that rocked the institution at the end of last year.

He said the parliament has "some of the weakest sanctions in place", "demonstrated by the lack of seriousness some MEPs have demonstrated by breaching or ignoring the rules".

Aiossa said that in the parliament's last mandate, 24 ethical violations of the code of conduct happened, but no sanctions were imposed.

"The ability and right to impose sanctions on an MEP falls directly with the president of the parliament, and for a variety of reasons, including political considerations, [which] I suspect [are] one of the reasons, why they have not been put forward," he said.

As a result, "MEPs will not feel obliged to respect the rules," Aiossa added.

Aiossa pointed to an internal decision-making body, the Bureau, which could adopt swift rules to strengthen transparency, but has failed to do so in the last decade.

The Bureau includes the parliament's president and the 14 vice-presidents (one of whom was MEP Eva Kailli, now imprisoned after being charged with corruption and money laundering).

The Bureau has been at the centre of frustrations before for the lack of willingness to make the parliament's work more transparent.

"The bureau is where good ideas for reform go to die," Aiossa said.

Aiossa urged MEPs to look at the general expenditure allowance, an annual €40m meant for office expenses and representation cost, for which not one receipt is required by MEPs.

He quipped that he cannot imagine that the parliament would be comfortable with any member state spending €40m in a year in cohesion funds without financial management.

Reform of this allowance has also failed in the Bureau, he said.

Aiossa recalled that the parliament itself called for better protection of whistleblowers within the European Parliament, but they have been ignored by the Bureau.

He argued that it is in the interest of all MEPs ahead of the 2024 European elections to take action.

Aiossa also argued for the creation of mandatory transparency registry for all and for MEPs to revisit the issue of third-party paid travels, adding that lawmakers have travel allowances at their disposal.

He commended the 14-point plan put forward by European Parliament president Roberta Metsola to deal with transparency in the parliament, saying they are a step in the right direction but they don't go far enough.

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.


'Qatargate' is the tip of the iceberg

To those of us who have been working for years to cast a light on EU corruption, this latest scandal is not a shock, or even a surprise — it's just the tip of the iceberg.

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.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.


How centre-right conservatives capitulate to the far-right

Many conservatives in Europe seem to have forgotten the lesson of 1930s Germany. They sacrifice their principles on the altar of the polls and all-too-often try to overtake rightwing radicals on their own pet subjects like security or migration.


My experience trying to negotiate with Uber

After working with people in unusual employment situations for a decade, I thought I had seen it all as a union organiser. Then I began dealing with Uber.

Latest News

  1. The EU's 'no added sugars' fruit-juice label sleight-of-hand
  2. EU belittles Russia's Lavrov on way to Skopje talks
  3. Member states stall on EU ban on forced-labour products
  4. EU calls for increased fuel supplies into Gaza
  5. People-smuggling profits at historic high, EU concedes
  6. EU bets big on fossil hydrogen and carbon storage
  7. How centre-right conservatives capitulate to the far-right
  8. My experience trying to negotiate with Uber

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  2. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  4. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  5. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  2. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  5. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  6. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us