Parliament President Metsola wants to tighten lobbying rules

Roberta Metsola

The President of the European Parliament has promised that nothing will be swept under the carpet.

(Photo: REUTERS)

Brussels After the corruption scandal in the European Parliament, Parliament President Roberta Metsola presented initial proposals for reforming lobbying rules. On Thursday she wants to discuss a 14-point plan with the leaders of the nine political groups in Parliament.

The conservative politician announced a crackdown in December. At that time, Belgian investigators had several members of parliament and employees because of Arrested on suspicion of corruption and money laundering and 1.5 million euros in cash seized. The money is said to come from the Emirate of Qatar and Morocco.

Metsola’s reform plan includes the following changes, among others:

  • MPs should not be allowed to do lobbying for two years after leaving parliament. They are also said to lose their access card to the parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg. Instead, they would have to apply for a day pass like normal visitors.
  • In the future, all MPs and employees should document their meetings with third parties that are related to a report or legislative proposal. So far, this rule only applied to certain management positions. This applies to all meetings inside and outside Parliament.
  • The so-called friendship groups in parliament are to be banned. These are loose networks of individual MPs with foreign governments. In future, contacts will only be maintained via the official delegations with third countries or the Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • In the future, MPs should state their financial interests in more detail than before – including gifts or trips received that were not paid for by Parliament.
  • In the future, representatives of third countries will also be registered when entering Parliament. The reason for the visit should also be stated.

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By acting quickly, Metsola wants to limit the damage to the image that Parliament has suffered. Some of the measures could be implemented in just a few weeks if they find the necessary support in parliament, it said on Wednesday.

Critics say the measures don’t go far enough. Green MEP Daniel Freund complains that third-country representatives should not appear in the transparency register. So far, only representatives of companies and non-governmental organizations have to be registered there.

The proposed measures are a step in the right direction, Freund said. If they were implemented quickly, that would be a big step. But the reform package has gaps. Metsola seems to want to do without a committee of inquiry into the corruption affair for the time being. She had promised in December that nothing should be swept under the carpet.

Four people are still in custody as a result of the scandal

Freund demanded that MPs must disclose their financial circumstances at the beginning and end of a legislative period. This is possibly “the best inducement against taking bribes,” he said. All weaknesses of the system would have to be eliminated. “A cosmetic reform would not increase confidence in the European Parliament.”

currently sitting four people in Belgian custody as a result of the scandal. These are former Parliament Vice-President Eva Kaili and her partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri and another non-governmental organization employee.

The public prosecutor’s office is also investigating the two Social Democratic MEPs Andrea Cozzolino and Marc Tarabella. The procedure is currently under way to lift the immunity of the two.

More: Metsola is asking for the immunity of two MPs to be lifted

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