The European Parliament approved yesterday (1 December) a new code conduct tightening rules on MEPs’ financial declarations and their contacts with lobbyists to avoid any perception of conflict of interest.
“The new Code of Conduct for MEPs will be a strong shield against unethical behaviour. The code's guiding principle is transparency. The Code of Conduct is a major improvement on the status quo and is the first-ever Code of Conduct for MEPs," said European President Jerzy Buzek.
Many scandals have hit the parliament in recent years. This year's bribery affair, in which at least four MEPs were caught on video by a Sunday Times reporter posing as a lobbyist, sparked a wave of criticism. It resulted in the resignations of Slovenian centre-left MEP Zoran Thaler and centre-right Austrian MEP Ernst Strasser. A third MEP, Romanian centre-left Adrian Severin, refused to resign but was expelled from the S&D group.
Under the the new rules, MEPs will have to report any outside activity for which they earn more than €5,000 per year and must refuse gifts worth more than €150. They also have publicly declare all professional activities for the three years preceding their election.
Financial support of any nature and any financial interest that may cause a conflict of interests will also have to be disclosed. Any change to the declaration must be notified within 30 days and in the event of failure, the member will no longer be eligible to hold offices within Parliament.
According to the new rules, the President of the Parliament, after having consulted an advisory committe, can decide to sanction MEPs that breach the code.
The sanctions range from a forfeiture of the daily allowance from two up to ten days, temporary suspension from Parliament's activities (not including the right to vote) for a maximum of 10 days, or the loss of the role of rapporteur or other elected offices within Parliament. Any such sanctions will be published on Parliament's web site.
"Increased power of the European Parliament must be accompanied by increased responsibility and transparency on behalf of its members. Today is the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty – it is an excellent day to adopt the Code – more power means more responsibility, "Buzek ended.