On Thursday, the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, will present a reform of the internal rules on lobbying and transparency to a body of the Parliament, about a month after the start of the scandal of alleged corruption of some European parliamentarians and officials by Qatar and Morocco.
The reform proposal has not yet been publicly disclosed but some points of the plan have been published by the news sites Politico, Euractiv and EuObserver. The internal body to which it will be presented will be the Conference of Presidents, which is attended by all the group leaders of the political groups present in the European Parliament.
Metsola’s main proposal concerns the extension to all MEPs of the obligation to record their meetings with lobbyists in a public portal. At the moment, in theory, all European parliamentarians can already do so: but the use of the portal is mandatory only for parliamentarians with important positions, such as commission presidents or rapporteurs of a certain measure, while for all the others it is voluntary. Furthermore, in Metsola’s plan, each parliamentarian will have to declare any conflicts of interest when he becomes the speaker of a certain provision.
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Other points of the plan envisage the obligation for lobbyists representing the interests of non-European countries to register in the appropriate Transparency Register, a European Union database in which all the main lobbies are present (currently those who represent a country third party has several loopholes that allow him not to register).
Parliamentary assistants and Parliament officials will also be prohibited from holding formal positions within an NGO: a rule that seems written to avoid cases such as that of Francesco Giorgi, historical assistant of Antonio Panzeri, the former European parliamentarian who according to the the Belgian federal prosecutor had set up a network of corruption in the European Parliament in favor of Qatar and Morocco. Until a few weeks ago Giorgi was both parliamentary assistant of Andrea Cozzolino, MEP of the PD, and involved in the management of the NGO founded by Panzeri, Fight Impunity.
However, the plan does not include any new rules on the extra-parliamentary work of current MEPs. Some time ago Alberto Alemanno, an expert on transparency and founder of The Good Lobby organization, said that around a quarter of current MPs have “freelancer duties that create permanent conflict of interest” with their political mandate.
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It is unclear whether Metsola’s plan will be approved as-is. Politico claims that the parliamentary group of Socialists and Democrats, the hardest hit by the scandal, will ask for even more stringent rules. The NGO Transparency International has released an extensive comment on Metsola’s proposal, as reported by the newspapers, rather critical: «The plan continues to be based entirely on self-imposition. We know that this dynamic does not work: we need the involvement of external and independent bodies at all levels of the reform process”.