Saturday

27th May 2017

Buzek allows Olaf probe, continues to deny access to offices

  • Buzek: Olaf must 'act in full respect of the immunity of a member' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has let the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf) conduct an investigation into the Sunday Times cash-for-amendments scandal. But he continues to deny access to MEPs' offices.

Buzek last week told Olaf to stick to matters related to misspent EU funds.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But on Wednesday evening (30 March) parliament's secretary general, Klaus Welle, personally handed over a letter from Buzek to his counterpart in Olaf, informing him of a change of heart in the case of four deputies who allegedly introduced legislative changes in return for promises of money.

"I have analysed the situation in depth and decided to allow the administrative investigation," the letter says.

The EP chief added that Olaf has no right to search offices however, saying MEPs must first be stripped of their immunity and that national authorities in Austria and Slovenia should step in to handle criminal proceedings.

"If Olaf wishes to start an investigation, then it evidently has to conduct it as an administrative, and not a criminal, investigation and act in full respect of the immunity of a member [of the parliament]," the letter says. "In the context of the administrative investigation, I can not allow Olaf to enter into the MEPs offices."

"I highlight the fact that the EP is ready to fully co-operate with relevant national authorities, including full access to the MEPs offices and computers once the immunity is waved."

An Olaf official said Buzek's position is unacceptable.

"This is not the end of the story for us, we believe we have a mandate [to access parliament's buildings]," Olaf spokesman Pavel Borkovec told this website.

Ten days ago the Sunday Times accused Austrian centre-right MEP Ernst Strasser, Slovenian Socialist MEP Zoran Thaler and Romanian Socialist MEP Adrian Severin of accepting offers of money from fake lobbyists in return for parliamentary amendments. Last weekend the paper added Spanish centre-right MEP Pablo Zalba to the list, a figure well-known in Brussels circles for his strongly pro-trade stance.

Strasser and Thaler have resigned. Severin continues to work as an independent. And all four have denied wrongdoing.

Buzek and the heads of parliament's political groups are set to discuss how to overhaul the legislature's internal rules to prevent future abuses on Thursday evening.

In a preparatory letter to the political chiefs ahead of the meeting, seen by EUobserver, Buzek says the time has come for the commission to come forward with "legislation which would establish a mandatory register for all institutions" on EU lobbyists.

Transparency groups have pressed hard for a mandatory register of firms actively lobbying EU institutions. The current register for the European Commission and the parliament works on a voluntary basis only.

While this is being set up, Buzek says the parliament should quickly establish its own de facto mandatory register for lobbyists.

"The question of second jobs of members also needs to be addressed," says Buzek in the second letter, but stops short of calling for a ban on all paid second jobs.

"Members should be required to update their existing declaration of interests much more regularly than once a year - ideally within a maximum of one month of any change in their circumstances," he said.

He also acknowledged there is a "certain irony" in MEPs scrutinising the new Code of Conduct for EU commissioners while there is no equivalent for euro-deputies: "I propose that we look closely at the Commissioners' code, as well as the obligations in the 27 national parliaments, to see whether there are certain general principles on which we can readily agree."

Romanian MEP charged with defrauding over €400,000

Adrian Severin, a Romanian MEP accused of having taken bribes from journalists posing as lobbyists, has been charged with siphoning €436,000 from the EU budget to bogus consultancy firms in Romania. He is still in office, claiming his innocence.

Opinion

Nato needs a European 2%

Europe needs to take care of its on security, but not on Trump's terms, with the 2 percent of GDP mantra flawed as a model.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms