Sunday

19th Feb 2017

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.

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.

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.

Opinion

The need for global cooperation in stopping Iran

Although Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the new administration seems to want to work on a new policy toward Iran. Let's hope European leaders will respond in kind to this approach.

Opinion

A bold call for traineeship equality

The EU ombudsman's slapdown of the EU diplomatic service's unpaid internship programs offers a glimmer of hope to a future of paid internships in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Migrants storm Spanish enclave of Ceuta
  2. Spain's princess fined for tax fraud, husband sentenced
  3. EU to invest millions in energy infrastructure
  4. Dutch data watchdog forces online vote aides to up security
  5. EU allows Lithuania to ban Russian tv channel
  6. Finland announces increase in defence spending
  7. Ex-PM Blair says Brits should 'rise up' against Brexit
  8. Nato chief says facts to prevail over fake news

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty