Friday

12th Aug 2022

Buzek defends parliament's efforts to tighten internal rules

Shaken by a recent spate of corruption allegations, the European Parliament is scrutinising the parliamentary codes of conduct in eight member states in a bid to ward off future offences.

But voices both inside and outside the European Parliament have questioned the approach, saying a mere compilation of already-existing schemes does not go far enough.

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

Speaking to members of the parliament's constitutional affairs committee on Monday, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek defended the methodology of a specially-convened working group that is scheduled to produce its report on tightening the chamber's internal rulebook this June.

He said the working group, which he chairs, will examine how already-approved rules on lobbyists can be strengthened, while a code of conduct will be put in place for MEPs.

"While most national parliaments have their codes of conduct for members ... the European Parliament does not," Buzek said. "The rules applicable in national parliaments are something we can build upon."

The debate on rule-tightening comes after a recent Sunday Times sting operation exposed four MEPs as allegedly willing to accept bribes in exchange for filing legislative amendments. All four MEPs have protested their innocence.

A subsequent squabble with the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf), in which investigators were refused access to the European Parliament did little to restore the legislature's reputation, with Buzek hastily setting up a ten-man team of MEPs to draw up a tougher set of rules for the future.

The working group is closely studying parliamentary procedures in France, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Finland, Slovakia, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Once completed this June, the group's report will be handed to senior European Parliament officials and political chiefs for approval, before being passed to the constitutional affairs committee for amendments.

But some members of the committee have already drawn a question mark over the working group's methodology.

"We accept that there must be changes ... but I think we should not simply aggregate the procedures of national parliaments to build up a sort of fortress," Liberal MEP Andrew Duff remarked. "I think that we must be something that is qualitatively better."

For their part, Transparency International, an anti-corruption NGO, said Germany is far from being a suitable model.

"We've looked closely at the code of conduct for German MPs and it clearly won't serve as a template, despite some recent improvements," Jana Mittermaier, head of the group's office in Brussels, told EUobserver.

The ability of German MPs to accept undisclosed personal donations, and weak rules surrounding the disclosure of assets are among the issues cited by the NGO in the past.

With the working group's report almost finished, Mittermaier also stressed the need for a public consultation.

"A public hearing was scheduled for the end of May, but we are becoming increasingly concerned that it will not materialise. It's essential if there is to be any transparency and critical voices are to be heard."

Apart from Duff, few MEPs in parliament's constitutional affairs committee were feeling critical on Monday, with members largely restricting their interventions to statements marking the anniversary of the death of EU forefather Altiero Spinelli.

"I'm happy you had more remarks about Spinelli than about the work we are doing in our group. It's obviously more important," Buzek told them afterwards.

Interview

Buzek: Speed up EU lawmaking, but not at cost of democracy

In office for another month, European Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek looks back at the highs and lows of his mandate and advises his successor to reach out to citizens and speed up lawmaking, but not at the expense of democracy.

Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey

The Swedish government has agreed to extradite a Turkish citizen with Kurdish roots wanted for credit card fraud to Turkey, amid the backdrop of Turkey's Nato threat.

Opinion

EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive

The EU needs to be clear eyed about China's new diplomatic charm offensive, as it's more likely driven by short-term necessity than any fundamental policy re-assessment.

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Beijing's club was meant to forge stronger European relations. Lithuania left it last year. Now Estonia and Latvia have also decided to walk over Chinese bullying.

Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties

Beijing's club was meant to forge stronger European relations. Lithuania left it last year. Now Estonia and Latvia have also decided to walk over Chinese bullying.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts new season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us