Code of conduct for MEPs
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 23 July 2012
Six months after the entry into force of the new code of conduct for MEPs, doubts are being raised concerning the seriousness with which deputies fill in their declarations of financial interest. Scanning the filings, transparency-oriented NGO Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) found that several declarations were either empty, incomplete, preposterous or unreadable.
In March 2011, three MEPs were accused of accepting to table amendments for ‘clients’ after having been told by undercover reporters from
The Sunday Times that such work would be compensated with money. Nine months later, Parliament took a step toward cleaning its house: a huge majority in plenary endorsed a code of conduct for deputies, which strengthened declarations of financial interests in view of increasing public scrutiny of second jobs. Deputies are supposed to list in their declaration - a meagre six or seven-page document - current and past employment activities, membership on boards and holdings in companies. The problem is that not all deputies have performed their duty correctly.
Back in April,
Europolitics(4409) had already noted that not all declarations had been filed before the 30 March deadline. On 9 July, when Friends of the Earth Europe finished its analysis, it found that almost all MEPs had submitted their declarations apart from those recently appointed. “However, quantity is not the same as quality,” writes FoEE.
The lack of seriousness with which certain parliamentarians fulfiled this transparency requirement is exemplified by two cases. Danish Liberal MEP Jens Rohde indicates that before taking office in 2009, he was “Master of the univers” [sic] with a monthly salary above €10,000. Brice Hortefeux (EPP, France), who took his seat in March 2011 after having been successively minister of immigration, labour and home affairs under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, makes no mention of these professional occupations in his declaration.
Out of the 752 declarations verified by FoEE, 88 (11.7%) were found to be empty, ie the names and dates were there but none of the relevant categories were filled in, including the occupation during the three-year period before taking office. Surprisingly, 19 MEPs (16.1% of the 118 parliamentarians declaring remunerated outside activities) do not declare any income from their “remunerated” activity. On top of that, some hand-written declarations are simply illegible.
The NGO thus concludes that “a small but significant number of MEPs barely took the time to read the questions, evidently not considering it worth their time (or their assistant’s time) to provide even the most basic information, such as their previous occupation”.
FoEE therefore calls upon EP President Martin Schulz, responsible for the implementation of the code of conduct, to investigate the data concerning previous occupations, to push to allow the Advisory Committee set up to assess conflicts of interest to make random checks and to create a central, searchable system allowing for user-friendly comparisons of declarations.