24th Jan 2021

Anti-corruption campaigner calls time on MEP 'parallel' jobs

  • Many MEPs have more than one paid job (Photo: European Parliament)

A leading anti-corruption campaigner and acting MEP has said the European Parliament must substantially overhaul its rules following the latest corruption scandal, including an end to the practice of MEPs holding additional jobs.

In future, European deputies should be banned from all other paid activities, centre-right MEP Monica Macovei told EUobserver in a telephone interview on Wednesday (23 March).

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"MEPs have five years in the European parliament to legislate for EU citizens. It's a full-time job and I don't see why they should have another one in parallel," Macovei said.

"We have salaries, we are paid to do this," added the former Romanian minister of justice (2004-2007) who won international plaudits for her efforts to root out high level corruption, including when cabinet colleagues were implicated.

Under currently parliamentary rules, MEPs can engage in a wide range of paid activities in addition to their legislative duties, so long as they are declared in the register of members' financial interests.

"An MEP who speaks in a meeting of a parliamentary body on a subject in which they have a direct financial interest must declare that interest orally at that point," says parliamentary spokesman Jaume Duch.

An undercover investigation by the Sunday Times suggests that at least three MEPs were willing to file legislative amendments in return for money from fake lobbyists however, with reports suggesting more MEPs are set to be exposed in the coming days.

Austrian centre-right euro-deputy Ernst Strasser and Slovenian Socialist Zoran Thaler have since resigned, while Romanian Socialist MEP Adrian Severin has been expelled from parliament's Socialist group. All three have denied wrongdoing.

Severin is a former deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, and was a contender for the EU's foreign policy job of high representative, eventually handed to Catherine Ashton.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek held a meeting with senior parliamentary officials on Wednesday and has promised a policy of "zero tolerance". "I would like to remind you of the heavy public responsibility that falls to us as elected representatives of the people," he told MEPs during a plenary session in Brussels.

"We consider that recent events made the case for a legally-binding code of conduct for lobbying in the EU institutions, asking all institutions to be party of such agreements," added the Polish politician.

This is not sufficient, says Macovei, who concedes that parliament's image has been badly damaged by the recent allegations.

"I looked at Mr Severin's statement of financial interests and the last one is from July 2009. I saw he is paid to do activities in different courts of arbitrage and boards of banks," she said, calling for the practice to stop.

In an apparent example of this conflict of interest, reports suggest the G4S security firm prevented European anti-fraud investigators (OLAF) from entering the offices of the three MEPs linked to the Sunday Times investigation.

Austrian ex-deputy Strasser was a board member of the security firm until very recently.

"It's like putting a dog in charge of a sausage. G4S regularly transferred money to Strasser while he was an active MEP," said Independent MEP Martin Ehrenhauser after the news broke.

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