Friday

22nd Mar 2019

Confusion reigns over MEP cash-for-amendments probe

  • The office of Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba, still open on Monday despite corruption allegations (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament is continuing to deny EU anti-fraud investigators access to its buildings, while the office of a fourth MEP implicated in the ongoing cash-for-amendments scandal remained open on Monday (28 March).

As different authorities fight over who should lead the corruption probe, alarm has grown that incriminating data needed for a conviction could be destroyed amidst the confusion.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

OLAF - the EU's anti-fraud office - has said EU treaties and legislation hand it a clear mandate to carry out an investigation, a position European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek denied in a letter to the anti-fraud body last Thursday.

The Polish politician says OLAF's job is to investigates cases of misspent EU money.

"The EU budget does not necessarilly have to be directly effected," OLAF spokesman Pavel Borkovec responded to this website.

"Clearly this is an alleged breach of rules within the EU institutions so if it's not a case for OLAF why do we have a mandate to investigate EU staff and members of the institutions?"

The squabbling relates to a recent undercover investigation by the Sunday Times, with the newspaper claiming several MEPs were willing to take money in exchange for filing legislative amendments.

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 but continues to act as an Independent MEP. All three have denied wrongdoing.

On Sunday the British newspaper claimed a fourth MEP had succumbed to offers of money from fake lobbyists, pointing the finger at Spanish centre-right euro-deputy Pablo Zalba

Zalba has said he was the victim of a "trap" in which journalists requested two amendments to draft legislation on consumer protection, reports the Spanish daily El Pais.

He says he agreed to table the second amendment as he believed it would help protect small investors, but the Sunday Times team claim they made it clear to the euro-deputy that he would be paid for his services.

On Monday Zalba's office in the European Parliament remained open.

"I opened the door to his office and could see three assistants or stagiaires," said a parliamentary official. "I stepped back and took a photo, they were very embarrassed."

Access to the offices of the three original MEPs implicated in the scandal has been blocked by the internal security firm currently hired by the parliament, G4S, a company which included Austria's Strasser on its supervisory board until very recently.

Independent MEP Martin Ehrenhauser said the lethargy in closing the fourth office was unacceptable. "Why is nobody sealing Zalba's office too? Is the parliament protecting the evidence from or for the investigations?"

Meanwhile member state prosecutors have launched their own investigations, with Transparency International raising concerns that multiple and conflicting jurisdictions could prevent a swift and thorough resolution to the ongoing scandal.

The group argues that the Belgian Public Federal Prosecutor is best placed to lead the investigation.

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

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.

MEPs hope to restore public trust with ethics code

In the wake of a cash-for-ammendments scandal, the European Parliament has adopted new code of conduct that bans MEPs from asking or accepting money in exchange for influencing legislation.

MEPs earn millions on the side

Over half of the MEPs have activities outside the European Parliament, earning between €5.8 and €18.3 million on top of their regular salaries, according to a database pooling their declarations of financial interests.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us