A year ahead of the European elections and six months after the Qatargate corruption scandal, how should the ethics of the European institutions be monitored? And by whom? Members of the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg reacted to the European Commission’s recent proposal for an “inter-institutional ethics committee”, described as an empty shell by the centrist Renew group.
When Commissioner Vera Jourova came to defend her text, she faced an almost continuous salvo of criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. Masquerade, lack of seriousness… For a majority of MEPs, the ethical control body is not up to the challenge.
This body would be made up mainly of representatives of the institutions, with one-third being independent experts. It should establish rules of good conduct common to all players, from the Parliament to the European Investment Bank and the Council, and define, for example, what constitutes a conflict of interest.
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It’s a step forward, of course, but we’re still a long way off the mark,” says Daniel Freund, a German Green MEP who has written several papers on the subject. “That’s not the problem. The problem is quite simply that here, in the Parliament, we have 26 cases of breaches of the rules in the last ten years, and not a single sanction. The same goes for the Commission, where no one is ever sanctioned for breaking the rules. That’s why we need to put an end to self-monitoring by the institutions, we need independent control”, he says.
With one year to go before the European elections, the Renew group, to which the Renaissance MEPs belong, will also be saying no to this basis for negotiation. For Macronist MEP Valérie Hayet, the political risk is a major one. “We need to recreate a bond of trust with citizens. In France, we have a High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life. It’s an independent tool that works. I think it’s a model we need to build on,” he explains.
The next step is for the deputies to vote on a resolution in July. To get a result before the vote, the executive and Parliament will have to pick up the tempo.