Belgium (Brussels Morning newspaper), MEPs have voiced concern that the “slow progress” of an investigation into the so-called Qatargate scandal.
They say that, seven months on from the affair “some of the grandiose promises for ethics and transparency reforms seem to be falling short.”
The European parliament’s president, Roberta Metsola, warned colleagues that the institution and European democracy at large are “under attack.” She also pledged an internal investigation and reforms to ensure transparency.
There have been two “important” developments in Parliament this week – a vote on changes to Parliament’s own rules and another on a Commission proposal for an EU ethics body.
Since the Qatargate scandal came to light, some MEPs have called for root and branch reform to, in their words, “fix the Parliament’s rotten culture of revolving doors, opaque practices, and lack of oversight.”
In efforts to improve transparency at the Parliament, the Left grouping of MEPs in the assembly has persistently called for a ban on side jobs for MEPs.
They state that MEPs “already receive a generous allowance. When MEPs have side jobs, their interests become inextricably linked to corporations or associations they work for, to the detriment of their constituents.”
Some members are said to earn up to €8,000 per month on top of their allowance.
At “every opportunity”, including this week’s votes on the ethics body and the recommendations on transparency made by the committee on foreign interference, the Left MEPs said that they tabled amendments calling for a ban on side jobs.
A Left group statement says, “Our proposal for a ban was supported by MEPs in December and twice in February on resolutions on integrity and an EU ethics body.”
It continues: “In this week’s vote on an ethics body it was rejected as MEPs did not have to reveal the voting record. Today, under the glare of a roll-call vote, MEPs voted to support our ban, co-signed by the Socialists and Democrats and the Greens,” said the Left Group statement.
“Qatargate showed the need for serious reforms, but seven months later many MEPs are trying to walk back commitments they already made to clean up Parliament,” said Left MEP Clare Daly (Independents for Change, Ireland).
“If our amendment hadn’t passed, this report would have watered down the ban on paid side jobs the Parliament agreed to in February. All of this looks complacent and indifferent to fast-eroding trust in EU institutions. The public needs high standards, not double standards. We will continue the fight for ambitious measures to secure the transparency, accountability, and integrity of our democratic bodies.”
On Wednesday (12 July), MEPs voted 365 to 270 for a resolution that described the Commission’s ethics body proposal as “unsatisfactory and not ambitious enough, falling short of a genuine ethics body”.
The Left statement added, “This long-awaited proposal is little more than a straw man that lacks any real power to change culture let alone restore public trust.”
Further comment came from Left MEP Leila Chaibi (La France Insoumise), who said, “The Commission waited four years, witnessing the Qatargate scandal and several cases of conflicts of interest in the European Commission, to propose an Ethics body that is an unacceptable affront.
“According to the Commission, the ethics body will have no investigation power, no sanctioning power, will not concern the staff of the institutions, and will have a ridiculously low budget. The Commission must revoke its proposal and must come forward, within three months, with a new proposal taking up the Parliament’s positions. It is essential to finalize the negotiations before the 2024 elections,” said Chaibi.