Party leaders in the European Parliament have unanimously backed a new code of conduct for MEPs after a spate of alleged corruption scandals.
Brussels is home to between 15,000 to 20,000 lobby firms, all vying to influence EU policy.
It is hoped the new anti-sleaze plan will prevent allegations similar to the ‘Cash-for-Influence’ scandal in March. That saw the UK Sunday Times secretly film at least three MEPs appearing to accept cash in exchange for tabling policy amendments.
The EU Parliament insists the rules will make it clearer for MEPs what outside interests they can follow and how to avoid conflicts of interest.
Diana Wallis, vice-President of the European Parliament said: ‘‘The idea is not to place a ban but to make every activity transparent, and obviously if there is transparency and if there is a conflict of interest then the member should move them-self away from that particular parliamentary activity.’‘
Anti-corruption groups trying to stamp out unethical political behaviour have welcomed the changes.
But, with at least one in seven MEPs thought to have a second job they say the new code doesn’t go far enough.
Vicky Cann from Corporate Europe Observatory said: “There is Mr Herbert Reul; who is the Chairman of the Energy Committee. He is also on the board of an Energy company in Germany. Or I can point to the former Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium Mr Jean Luc Dehane, who is chairman of the board of a major financial corporation, Dexia”
The new rules come into force next year.
By outlining what is expected of Europe’s parliamentarians it is hoped scandals, like that of former British MEP Den Dover, will be avoided. He was recently ordered by the European Court of Justice to repay almost 400,000 euros in false expense claims.