Body probing MEPs' conflicts of interest should get more powers and funds: EU watchdog

European Parliament's President Roberta Metsola chairs the vote for vice-president of parliament, Jan. 18, 2023 in Strasbourg, eastern France.
European Parliament's President Roberta Metsola chairs the vote for vice-president of parliament, Jan. 18, 2023 in Strasbourg, eastern France. Copyright AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
By Alice Tidey
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EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly welcomed the proposals unveiled by European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola to crack down on corruption and increase transparency but said that more could be done.


An advisory committee monitoring MEPs' conflicts of interest must be given greater independence and power to investigate abuses, the European Union's watchdog has said.

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said in a statement on Monday that rules recently proposed by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola to crack down on corruption and provide greater transparency on MEPs' contact with lobbyists are "a step in the right direction" but "could be strengthened further".

Metsola proposed 14 measures earlier this month in the wake of a major cash-for-favours scandal rocking Brussels whereby several people with links to the parliament are accused of accepting large sums of money from Qatari and Moroccan officials in exchange for favourable public positions. Both Qatar and Morocco deny the allegations.

These measures include a ban on unofficial friendship groups, the mandatory publication of all scheduled meetings, new rules to access parliamentary premises, more detailed declarations on conflicts of interests and personal finances and a cooling-off period for former MEPs during which they won't be able to gain employment as a lobbyist.

Several civil society organisations have criticised the proposals arguing they rely on "self-enforcement" and "self-policing" by MEPs themselves.

O'Reilly praised the cooling-off period measure but said that improvements could be made to other proposals. 

She called for instance for information about meetings of all MEPs and their staff with lobbyists, as well as with representatives from non-EU countries, to be published.

She also said that "the committee monitoring the implementation of MEPs’ Code of Conduct should be allowed to investigate on its own initiative and be given sufficient resources to carry out its tasks."

In a letter to Metsola dated Friday, she argued that "diligent and independent oversight and enforcement of existing ethics rules is critical" but that the committee's powers are "limited". She also said that greater transparency in the committee's work is needed.

Four people have so far been charged with participating in a criminal organisation as part of the probe by Belgian authorities. They include Greek MEP Eva Kaili, her life partner Francesco Giorgi, former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, and NGO director Niccolò Figà-Talamanca.

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