Qatargate: lobbying by former MEPs now better regulated

Tags: Qatargate, Marocgate, Moroccogate, lobbying, European Parliament, corruption,

A political agreement has been reached: lobbying by former MEPs will be banned in the European Parliament for six months following Qatargate.

By Emmanuel Berretta

The reform of ethical rules in the European Parliament has made a first step forward. Roberta Metsola, the president, obtained Monday from the office of the Parliament the prohibition of the lobbying of the former deputies during the first six months after the end of their mandate. This so-called “cooling off” period is the result of a compromise between the political parties in Parliament. Let us be clear: they can convert to lobbying whenever they see fit, but they cannot engage in lobbying activity with their former colleagues in the six months following the end of their mandate.

In the Qatargate affair, the former Italian socialist deputy Pier Antonio Panzeri had become a human rights activist, a lobbying activity adorned with deceptive virtue to, in fact, extend his network of corruption in favor of the Qatar and Morocco with his former parliamentary colleagues. This case has shed a harsh light on the unlimited access of former MPs to the precincts of Parliament. A privilege that many have seized to practice lobbying without declaring this activity in the Parliament’s transparency register. There were, in fact, only three former deputies officially registered in the register…

The socialists wash whiter

Roberta Metsola has however encountered some resistance, even within her political family, the Christian Democrats of the EPP. When she puts forward this proposal, she advocates a 12-month “cooling off” period. For EPP MEPs, that is out of the question. On the other hand, the Greens and the Socialists (who have things to forget), the period of prohibition must extend over twenty-four months. The extreme left had not clearly formulated a minimum period but, in any case, the proposed period seemed to them too short.

To pass this reform, there is no need to touch the statute of the deputies or to go through the legislative process. Roberta Metsola needed a decision from the CoP (Conference of Political Group Presidents) and the Bureau of Parliament (composed of the 14 Vice-Presidents, representing the various political groups in Parliament). On paper, the two instances seem a bit redundant. Let’s say that the CoP is more the expression of the political parties while at the office, the vice-presidents represent a little more themselves than their group. It is not uncommon for vice-presidents from the same political family to split, for example.

Metsola’s casting vote makes the decision

The CoP adopted Metsola’s proposal a few weeks ago. Monday, it was the office’s turn to speak. The case presented itself in a more delicate way to the point that the 14 vice-presidents neutralized each other 7 against 7. On the one hand, the votes in favor of the proposal: the vice-presidents EPP, Renew (liberals) and ECR (sovereignists). On the other, 7 votes against considering that a six-month ban is too short: the 5 socialist vice-presidents, the vice-president of the Greens and the vice-president of The Left (extreme left). In the event of a tie, the vote of President Roberta Metsola is the deciding vote. We can therefore say that the Maltese obtained the decision she wanted, even if at the start, her proposal for a one-year cooling off was more ambitious.

Technically, the six-month period also corresponds to the period during which former deputies receive an end-of-term indemnity, the time to turn around. “If we had extended this period, there was a risk that the legal proceedings would lead to an unfavorable decision by the judge for a lack of proportionality of the measure”, we indicate to the office of the president. If a former MEP deviates from the rule, the services of the Parliament will have to report it to President Metsola, who has the power to revoke the access rights of the individual found at fault, as well as the associated advantages (access to the bar reserved members, health cover, etc.).

The end of unlimited accreditations

The reform remains to be refined in terms of details. Former MPs will no longer have unlimited accreditation (which also allowed them to accredit their families!). In the future, they will have to provide proof of daily accreditation. An application will allow them to register in advance. If they arrive at the reception of the European Parliament on the same day without having announced themselves, they will have to obtain a badge at the accreditations office like any other visitor. It is a question of developing a fast lane for them.

Other measures are in preparation concerning the supervision of events organized within the Parliament. The transparency register will have to be more systematically filled in by participants, including for events created by the MEPs themselves and their co-organizers. In short, one no longer enters the European Parliament like entering a mill. We want to know who’s on the premises. End of a long naivety.


#Qatargate #Morocco #European_Parliament #Corruption