ALTER-EU believes that the draft Code of Conduct for MEPs that was published by the European Parliament today is an important step forward to avoid ethics scandals involving MEPs. A ban on lobby side jobs and an obligation to report on external income will improve transparency and reduce conflicts of interest. Further measures to ensure proper implementation of the Code and introduce stronger sanctions and a cooling-off period are now necessary.
The cash-for-influence scandal exposed the willingness of a number of MEPs to accept lucrative paid jobs in return for using their influence within the Parliament to further the interests of their new paymasters. Rightly, the Parliament President Jerzy Buzek responded by setting up a working group to develop a Code of Conduct which has been meeting regularly ever since.
On the publication of the draft code, ALTER-EU spokesman Paul de Clerck says: “The Code of Conduct for MEPs is an important step forward, although more work will be needed in the future to tighten the rules further. On the plus side, it is really positive to see a ban on MEPs acting as lobbyists, a ban on MEPs receiving high-value gifts, and the introduction of more detailed financial interest declarations. On the negative side, there is no cooling-off period for MEPs, allowing them to become lobbyists as soon as they leave elected office, nor will there be independent experts on the oversight committee. We also think that MEPs should be banned from accepting all second paid jobs where there is a conflict of interest with their work as an MEP”.
Paul de Clerck continued: “The Parliamentary authorities now need to ensure that sufficient resources are dedicated to policing and enforcing the code. The code gives space to the Parliament's President and the new advisory committee to examine specific cases of conflict of interest and ALTER-EU urges these authorities to be ready to carry out robust investigations into all serious allegations of breaches of the code. At the end of this term, the European Parliament must be associated with ethics and transparency – rather than scandal”.
ALTER-EU considers that it is necessary to amend the Members' statute to take account of the new code. The Parliament should use that opportunity to introduce a cooling-off period for ex-MEPs, a wider ban on MEPs accepting second jobs which provoke conflicts of interest, and tougher sanctions.
ALTER-EU scorecard on the draft Code of Conduct for MEPs is attached.
For more information, please contact:
Paul de Clerck: firstname.lastname@example.org ; +32-494-380-0959
Vicky Cann: email@example.com ; +32-2893 0930 or +32-489-596-478