There was a lot of goodwill in Strasbourg this week: more transparency, an end to diplomatic machinations, clear pressure rules that apply to everyone. But while the European Parliament has tried to pick up the thread after the biggest corruption scandal in its history, it has not been able to really shift the focus.
In recent days all sorts of disturbing facts have come to light. First of all, about the Speaker of Parliament, Roberta Metsola, who has taken the lead in recent weeks in responding to the revelations. But it turns out this week that Metsola also missed 142 timely gifts in his gift registry — including all kinds of fancy knick-knacks, bottles of champagne and dry sausages. She also ditched a paid trip to a wine castle in October just last week when it was supposed to take place in a few weeks.
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Metsola spokespeople confirmed that the previous chiefs did not register gifts and travel at all and that they plan to bring everything directly into the future. It is not expected to cause much hype. But this boss was very loose with Really very flexible rulespainfully contributes to the image of an institution in which everyone is already doing something.
It is the culture of “impunity and obfuscation” that the left-wing group in the European Parliament has so attacked this week. French group chief Manon Aubry said Tuesday that the scandal “has now become a kind of Netflix series, where we are left with a quarrel: what happens next?”
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And a lot still happens – especially since the prime suspect in the scandal, former deputy Pier Antonio Panzieri, will provide valuable information on other people involved in exchange for a reduced sentence. The leaked statements have already shown that he is dragging fellow Belgian Marc Tarabella into his fall: Panziri will do it. I paid 120,000 euros. The question of who is next has been the subject of much speculation in Strasbourg this week.
And while the discussion about new transparency rules is taking place, fingers are also beginning to be pointed. MEPs from groups other than the Social Democrats believe their guilt is minimal – so far all the suspects belong to their group. But the fact that the Christian Democrats have openly attacked the “mysterious inner culture” of the Social Democrats also causes uneasiness. “Please do not attack each other – the prestige of the European Parliament matters to all of us,” says VVD MEP Malik Azmani.
At the same time, there is a growing fear that the European Parliament is becoming too preoccupied with itself as a result of the influx of scandals – at a time when enough is happening to affect European citizens. What’s more, there is still no agreement on how strict the new rules will be. MEPs in particular like to flaunt their “delegate liberty”: a principle which means that elected MPs should not be hindered too much in the mandate they receive from the electorate.
At the same time, the measures Metsola proposed — including a cooling-off period for former MEPs during which they are not allowed to lobby, and a commitment to make meetings public — are very weak, according to transparency advocates. “I don’t think Parliament itself realizes that by not reforming, not taking this opportunity to do something substantial, it is opening itself up to more criticism,” he said. said the EU analyst Camino Mortera from the Center for European Reform v. Deutsche Welle.
A version of this article also appeared in the January 21, 2023 newspaper
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