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Doubts over EU parliamentary reform as officials look to German model

  • Analysts say EU officials are increasingly taking their lead from Berlin (Photo: Herman)

A series of question marks have been raised over the European Parliament's pledge to tighten internal rules following the cash-for-amendments scandal, as senior officials look to Germany's Bundestag as a potential template.

"We're obviously studying at a broad range of parliaments, but the German model in particular," a source said on Monday (18 April) on condition of anonymity, a day before a specially-convened working group on internal reform is set to meet for the first time.

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Transparency International (TI) confirmed that key figures within the European Parliament were touting rules within Berlin's Bundestag as a future model, a move the NGO said would constitute a step backwards.

"There are a huge number of deficiencies with the German rules," TI policy officer Carl Dolan told this website.

"MPs in Germany can accept personal donations of up to €10,000 without disclosing them, and they have no rules regarding the disclosure of assets. They declare conflict of interest in parliamentary committees, but these are closed to the public, so its actually worse than the European Parliament," added Dolan.

The disquiet comes amid suggestions that some within the European Parliament are already digging in their heels against substantial reform, despite recent allegations from the Sunday Times newspaper that four MEPs were willing to make legislative amendments in return for a fee. All four have denied wrongdoing.

"We should not jump to conclusions that the current rules are deficient," said one parliamentary official.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has personally pledged to clean up the legislature's tarnished image, outlining a list of seven reform areas and opting to chair a working group of ten MEPs, which will meet for the first time on Tuesday morning.

The initial gathering is likely to establish a work programme for the coming weeks, with one sub-group set to focus on how MEPs interact with EU lobbyists, and another to concentrate on devising a code of conduct for MEPs.

Conclusions should be ready by June, say people close to the discussions, enabling a vote by senior parliamentary officials and political group leaders in July, before the summer recess.

A mandatory register of lobbyists, tighter statements of financial interests and a code of conduct for MEPs are among the measures that Buzek has said he supports.

The Polish politician also told political group leaders last month that he wanted tougher sanctions for rule-breakers, as well as the compulsory publication of a 'legislative footprint' by MEPs who write reports, detailing which outside organisations were consulted during the drafting process.

Some MEPs and pressure groups have said the reforms must go further however, calling for a complete ban on all paid second jobs.

For its part, Transparency International is concerned that the working group may be used to quietly diffuse the current fuss by drawing the debate out over a long period.

"Buzek won't be able to push through his proposals without the support of the political groups," said Dolan.

"They definitely need to publish a list of reforms by the summer, and if they're serious, must hold a number of working group sessions in public."

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