Major changes in European Parliament to prevent future Qatargate

BrusselsMorning

lfattoquotidiano, BM, Agencies- Green light to the draft proposals presented by President Metsola two months after the scandal. Timid openings and encouragements come from political forces, including Italian ones, but criticism rains down from experts in the field of transparency and lobbying. The cold shower from the founder of The Good Lobby: “Only minor changes to the existing ethics regime that have no structural effect.” There are no sanctions, declarations of incoming and outgoing financial interests. With Alemanno let’s try to understand why, point by point
The proposals are not up to the challenges raised by this scandal, nor is the (unilateral) process that produced them.” Word of 

Alberto Alemanno , founder of The Good Lobby who clearly rejects the countermeasures announced with great pomp by the president of the European Parliament 

Roberta Metsola a month after QatarGate, the largest corruption case in the history of the institution . Presented today to the Conference of Presidents who gave the green light to work on the definitive proposals, they were circulated yesterday in the form of drafts, finding timid applause from the parties, such as the president of the Socialists in the Eurochamber, 

Iratxe Garcia Perezwhich speaks of “a good start”: “We can be more ambitious to increase transparency”. Many are convinced of this, such as the Northern League deputy and group leader of Id 

Marco Zanni (“it will be a fairly rapid path, we are optimistic”). It is a “useful draft from which to start” say the Five Stars, with MEP 

Laura Ferrarahowever asking for draconian measures, such as the loss of pensions to colleagues in the event of a conviction.

But from insiders comes the countermelody if not exactly a cold shower . In fact, it is precisely the experts in the field of transparency and control who are the most critical of the announced measures, such as the professor of European Union law at the HEC in Paris Alberto Alemanno , founder of The Good Lobby . His judgment is very harsh: “The proposal consists of a series of marginal changes to the existing ethical regime which have no structural effect . It will always be up to the president and her colleagues to apply them. In short, we remain in the logic of self-regulation , which as we all know by now does not work. Also, these rules do not enforce onedeclaration of financial interestsat the beginning and at the end of the mandate – perhaps the most effective measure to prevent corrupt behavior – nor the creation of a commission of inquiry” . In short, it is a question of “a missed opportunity”. With Alemanno let’s try to understand why, examining the draft proposals point by point.

Objective 1: A new revolving door policy
A ‘cooling off’ period could be envisaged for former MEPs wishing to lobby MPs. This will be linked to the transitional allowance granted to former Members. For a period in which former Members benefit from a transitional allowance they would not be allowed to be entered in the transparency register and therefore would not be able to lobby the institution they served immediately after the end of their mandate.

Alemanno: “Today, MEPs are not subject to any post-mandate constraints, yet they receive a transitional allowance for reintegration into work (it makes no sense). Now, while they won’t be able to lobby the EU post-mandate, they remain free to have side jobs while in office. Absurd.

Objective 2: Shed a clearer light on Members’ activities
More and clearer information should be made available to the public. One option is to introduce an ‘Integrity’ tab on the front page of the European Parliament’s website which would centralize and contain information relating to the integrity of parliamentary work in one place. It could include detailed information on: sanctions, declarations of gifts, declarations of trips to third countries not paid for by the European Union, declarations of scheduled meetings, information on the code of conduct and the advisory board; – information and links to the Transparency Register.

Alemanno: Now the sanctions of MEPs are rare and invisible to the electorate. They could now become visible allowing for greater public scrutiny. However, depending on where/how this information is provided, this reform will achieve the stated goal. Positive and overdue reform, but will it work?

Objective 3: Tighter checks on interest representatives
Inclusion in the Transparency Register should be a requirement for all lobbyists, NGOs and interest representatives to attend parliamentary hearings and other events. Additional staff will be needed to streamline the control of the Transparency Register to ensure data quality and up-to-date information on lobbying activities. The European Parliament could carry out regular checks on these organizations in the Transparency Register, including by requesting ad hoc checks of links with third countries and funding streams

Alemanno: inclusion in the transparency register is already a prerequisite 2 to attend the European Parliament event. Now a verification mechanism could eventually be set up at EP level, but the Sec Gen of Registry is hosted by the Commission. It is ridiculously understaffed and prevented by design from verifying the veracity of information

Objective 4: Compulsory publication of meetings 
An obligation should be introduced for all Members to publish all scheduled meetings with third parties relating to a report or resolution of the European Parliament. This obligation currently exists only for committee chairs, rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs. This obligation could be extended to all Members, all accredited parliamentary assistants, staff of political groups and staff of the European Parliament. The meeting list will be made easily accessible to the public. Organizations registered in the transparency register should also have an obligation to make public all their meetings with members, APAs and staff linked to European Parliament reports or resolutions.

Alemanno: Hallelujah! After decades of pushbacks, MEPs will also be subject to mandatory reporting of meetings (as will staff), but it’s unclear whether it will also apply to all such meetings or just those ‘related to a report or resolution’. Ambiguous

Objective 5: Enforce a ban on friendship groups with third countries
Any activity or meeting of any unofficial grouping of Members which could create confusion with the official activities of the European Parliament will be prohibited. This will apply to ‘friendship groups’ with third countries where other Parliament bodies already act as interlocutors. Third countries should interact with Parliament through the Foreign Affairs Committee, existing official parliamentary delegations or other committees, if necessary.

Alemanno: Banning friendship groups (without saying what they are) when “they could create confusion” with the official activities of the EP appears probatiodiabolica… MEPs will not hesitate to invoke their cherished electorate freedom mandate to preserve their entrepreneurial spirit !

Objective 6: Clarity in access to Parliament premises
The creation of a new entry register. All persons entering the European Parliament’s premises, including representatives of third countries, must, upon entering the European Parliament’s buildings, provide information for an entry register stating the date, time and purpose of the visit. Arrangements can also be made to have this register as a digital or online option. Guests, equipped with a visitor badge, must always be accompanied by the person in charge of access.

Alemann: Really? To date, the EU Parliament cannot tell who enters its premises. Now he will know, first thanks to a paper register, which will then perhaps go digital… No unaccompanied visitors!

Objective 7: Revision of the rules on ex-Members
We could replace the permanent access badges currently granted to ex-Members with new daily access badges. Ex-members should no longer have the right to grant entry to anyone else, and current access rights for ex-members’ entourage can be removed. Parliament’s services may be required to set up a dedicated desk and fast track specifically for the accreditation of former Members. Former Members who enter Parliament as interest representatives, after the reflection period, will have to be entered in the transparency register according to the rules in force. They will be required to sign the newly created entry register.

Alemanno: Why were former MEPs allowed to roam freely within the premises of the EP? If they are no longer elected officials, it is time to treat them as regular citizens (day pass) or any other lobbyist (registration scheme)

Objective 8: Avoid conflicts of interest
We should enforce the requirement for Members to make a declaration on potential conflicts of interest before accepting a report or resolution as rapporteur or shadow rapporteur and presenting it to the relevant committee (or plenary, if necessary). This will be managed by the competent secretariats of the Committee. Further controls and awareness actions should be implemented to ensure that accredited parliamentary assistants and staff are not allowed to join organizations in a management role that have links with third countries.

Alemannic:. Very marginal rule, additional but summary to avoid conflict of interest, as article 3 of the Code of Conduct provides for it for European deputies. Useful as it extends it to staff.

Objective 9: Greater transparency on financial declarations
The level of detail required in the declaration of members’ financial interests should be increased and made clearer. More information on Members’ side jobs and outside activities should be included. Controls should be allowed to ensure the correct application of the rules.

Alemanno: Side jobs? Keep it up, but please disclose them. Extra money? Continue, but report everything but it is not necessary to disclose it at the beginning and end of the term (to check if you bought any villas with a lot of money). Status quo

Objective 10: Introduction of training on compliance and whistleblowing
Training for Members should be available throughout the legislature. The European Parliament should mandate mandatory training for all MEPs’ accredited parliamentary assistants on financial rules, compliance, conduct and whistleblowing, ensuring they are aware of all rules and systems to protect the institution’s integrity , themselves and the MP they work with. Compulsory training should be foreseen among EP staff for line managers who may receive reports from whistleblowers

Alemanno: As whistleblowers are not protected in the European Parliament, we provide training (!) on how to become one… Status quo

Objective 11: Strengthen the Code of Conduct Committee
Although the European Parliament has already proposed a new ethics body for the EU institutions, we will act unilaterally to ensure that members are required to seek advice, quickly and easily, on possible conflicts on a systematic basis to the Advisory Committee of the Code of Conduct. The role of the Committee should be strengthened.

Alemanno: The European Parliament’s Code of Conduct Committee should already provide advice, upon request, on potential conflicts. Yet he lacks independence, compromised due to his two-party nature, and lacks real teeth. That won’t change

Goal 12: Combat foreign interference while strengthening human rights work
The European Parliament’s work on protecting human rights around the world is something we are proud of and need to strengthen. We must do this by rejecting any foreign interference in our work. The checks and balances for urgently tabled motions for resolutions, which have been subject to undue influence, can be strengthened and confidence in this critical aspect of the European Parliament’s work can be strengthened. Therefore the Conference of Presidents should apply an approach which accepts only requests for urgency from a committee, after discussion within that committee, with motions for resolutions limited in length and scope to the human rights issue at hand.

Alemannic: Um. Since #Qatargate has revealed a gap, let’s fill it with a little more caution… while motions for resolutions are presented with (suspected) urgency. Unenforceable and meaningless clause

Objective 13: Strengthen the fight against corruption
The European Parliament should strengthen its cooperation with Member States’ law enforcement and judicial authorities to ensure that the institution is best able to respond and contribute to any investigation into alleged criminal activities of Members or personal. We will examine the protection that such national police and judicial institutions can provide to the institution, in particular against attempts by third countries to influence democratic processes.

Alemanno: since guaranteeing the honesty of the EP is ultimately not among the prerogatives of the EP nor of the EU, we ask for help from the national judicial authorities… our saviors!

Objective 14: Sanctions
The list of sanctionable activities for Members will need to be revised accordingly to support compliance with the obligations and responsibilities listed in this document.

Alemanno: what sanctions for those who violate the old and new rules? Not only are you invisible to many, but you are also grossly inadequate to create deterrence. Time to review the existing ones (see below for a classification) against MEPs (non-staff members): reputational (e.g. call to order, warning), change of position (e.g. temporary suspension of rapporteur), irreversible (e.g. removal from post, financial (e.g. loss of daily allowance for MEPs)

About Us

Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
Share This Article
Follow:
Brussels Morning is an independent daily newspaper with an EU affairs focus. With a transnational team, we provide a pan-European daily news service and weekly insightful columns with integrity, depth and foresight.