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S&Ds push for longer ‘cooling-off period’ for MEPs and a ban on lobbying-related side jobs

Date

01 Jun 2023

Sections

Global Europe

Today, the European Parliament’s special committee on foreign interference and disinformation (INGE) voted on its position on the reforms to strengthen the integrity, transparency and accountability of the European Parliament. This report – approved by a large majority and considerably improved by the S&Ds – gives the Parliament and its members clear guidelines on transparency and on how to protect the European Parliament from foreign influence. Nevertheless, as S&Ds, we pushed for far more ambitious rules regarding the personal financial interests of MEPs and we will continue to do so.

During the plenary vote in July, the Socialists and Democrats will once again push for an up to 24-month ‘cooling-off period’ for MEPs at the end of their mandate if they want to take up lobbying activities. The conservative compromise adopted today only allows for a six-month ‘cooling off period’. In addition, the S&Ds urge the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and liberal Renew Europe (RE) to support their proposal for a ban on all side jobs listed in the EU Transparency Register. MEPs should simply not be able to lobby on behalf of a company while holding a mandate.

Nevertheless, the adopted measures go further than President Metsola’s 14-point reform plan. That is why the S&Ds voted in favour of the final vote, with the aim of further strengthening measures during the plenary vote. They secured some important improvements, including the obligation of asset declaration for all MEPs, before and after the mandate, as well as prohibiting MEPs from keeping gifts above €100. The adopted rules also include a ban on paid side jobs for high-risk third countries and the obligation to publish all scheduled meetings with third parties. In relation to this, the new S&D internal rules go further; obliging not only MEPs, but also accredited assistants and staff to publish all scheduled meetings with lobbyists and interest representatives.

Andreas Schieder, S&D spokesperson and negotiator in the INGE committee, said:

“The investigations of INGE have shown us that the problem of foreign influence is bigger than we thought. Authoritarian countries, such as Russia and China, are trying to divide and weaken the EU, and undermine our democratic model. ‘Qatargate’ has revealed that we, in the European Parliament, are not immune to foreign interference either.

“In recent months, we have worked on recommendations to ensure the highest standards of transparency that the public now expect from us. We must not only prevent corruption in the future, but also protect the European Parliament from malign foreign influence. The measures adopted today range from disclosing MEPs' assets to mandatory publication of meetings for MEPs, as well as much stricter obligations for organisations wishing to be involved with the European Parliament. This is positive, but not enough.

“Regrettably, when it comes to measures directly affecting MEPs’ own financial interests, we didn’t get enough support for our proposals. Let’s be honest, the six-month ‘cooling-off period’ is not enough. We also need much stricter rules to ban inappropriate side income. It must be crystal clear: you can't be a Member of the European Parliament and a lobbyist at the same time.  As Socialists and Democrats, we will continue to advocate ambitious reforms and lead by example by respecting much stricter rules.”

Raphaël Glucksmann, Chair of the special committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation, said: 

“The recent allegations of corruption and foreign interference in the European Parliament have illustrated how pervasive and corrosive the attempts by autocratic regimes to influence European democracies are. They are also highly damaging to the European Parliament’s credibility. That is why we must profoundly change the rules before the next European elections – to make sure that our institutions are more transparent and better protected. Above all, we urgently need an independent EU ethics body that would control all EU institutions, with real investigative powers. What we hear so far from the Commission is not enough.

“Recommendations adopted today by the INGE committee are a step forward in comparison to Metsola’s plan, which was adopted recently by the European Parliament Bureau. But, we can and must be more ambitious, particularly on the side jobs and cooling-off period. Some in the European Parliament hope that business as usual might prevail. This is not an option. We must be clear that our democracy is not for sale.”

Note to editors:

For more than two years, the special INGE committee – set up on the initiative of the S&D Group in 2020 – have been analysing and alerting about the ever more forceful and sophisticated foreign interference by autocratic regimes, particularly from Russia and China. Today, in the plenary, the European Parliament voted on concrete recommendations on how to protect the democratic process from malicious foreign actors, adopted by INGE last month. You can read more here.

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