An ALTER-EU factsheet, 'One year after the cash-for-amendments' scandal' is attached and online available at:http://www.alter-eu.org/sites/default/files/documents/ALTER-EU_Factsheet_MEPCode_March2012.pdf
Today marks the first anniversary of the ‘cash-for-amendments’ scandal, in which several Members of the European Parliament were exposed tabling legislative amendments in exchange for money . Ethics campaigners warn that the new code introduced since the scandal does not include all the safeguards necessary to prevent another ‘lobbygate’.
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) supported the introduction of the code of conduct for MEPs as a significant step forward. However, significant loopholes remain . Crucially, the implementing measures as well as a monitoring procedure, which are foreseen in the text, need to be further developed .
ALTER-EU is using the anniversary to urge President Schulz and the Bureau of the European Parliament to propose strong and clear enforcement measures in order to guarantee consistent interpretation and strict enforcement.
As currently worded, the text remains too vague in several key parts, thereby allowing for potential abuses. In particular, ALTER-EU is calling for the code to contain clear provisions and guidance for implementation , specifically:
- The guarantee of full transparency and clarity about MEPs’ financial interests, as referred to in article 4 about declarations of interest. The current forms (often handwritten and unreadable and only accessible on each of the 754 MEPs’ individual webpages) are unsatisfactory. Members should instead declare all interests in quarterly electronic format, stored centrally, published and translated in at least one common language ;
- The regulation of non-parliamentary jobs (second positions) in a way that secures a strict enforcement of the ban on lobbying related second jobs for MEPs, as suggested in article 2 of the code;
- The clarification of criteria as regards which second positions and outside interests of MEPs are likely to constitute the conflicts of interest that article 3 aims to address;
- The sharpening of rules on gifts in order to avoid lobbyists seeking to influence MEPs via gifts and hospitality;
- The enforcement of provisions related to former MEPs involved in lobby activities (article 6).
Speaking on behalf of ALTER-EU, Natacha Cingotti said: “The code of conduct, as it currently stands, is unfinished business. Without clear implementing measures, all efforts to bring about an ethics revolution in rules and mindsets will be wasted. Only consistent and robust interpretation and strict implementation can make it a strong tool to prevent new scandals.”
ALTER-EU last year called on the parliamentary authorities to develop rules to regulate MEPs' second jobs, including a ban on all jobs that involve lobbying or otherwise lead to conflicts of interest. Without strong implementation rules to accompany the code and support the work of the new advisory committee, it will remain very difficult to regulate MEPs' second jobs.
Olivier Hoedeman, speaking for ALTER-EU, said: “Lack of clear and strict implementing measures risks undermining the effectiveness of the code. We are very disappointed by the new system of declarations of MEPs’ outside interests, which maintains key features of the failed old system such as handwritten and unreadable forms. While obviously not all second jobs imply a conflict of interest, active scrutiny and enforcement by the new ethics committee is absolutely necessary to prevent new scandals.”
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Notes to editors:
 As mentioned in article 9 of the code of conduct, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/pdf/meps/Code_of_conduct_EN.pdf
At the time of writing, only implementing measures as regards the adoption of the new forms for declarations of interest have been introduced.
 Declarations are now often in unreadable handwriting, difficult to find - as they are not in one location, and difficult to read - as they are in more than 15 different languages.
 ALTER-EU factsheet, March 2012, http://www.alter-eu.org/sites/default/files/documents/ALTER-EU_Factsheet_MEPCode_March2012.pdf