New ethical code too weak to prevent another ‘lobbygate’
Brussels, 20 March 2012 – 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 following the scandal does not include all the safeguards necessary to prevent another ‘lobbygate’.
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:
- – 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, and published and translated in at least one common language;
- – Regulation of non-parliamentary employment (second jobs) in a way that secures a strict enforcement of the ban on lobbying-related jobs for MEPs, as suggested in article 2 of the code;
- – Clarification of criteria as regards which second jobs and outside interests of MEPs are likely to constitute the conflicts of interest that Article 3 aims to address;
- – Tighteningof the 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.”
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