A new code of conduct for MEPs was endorsed by Parliament on Thursday. The code sets out rules and principles which MEPs will need to follow in their contacts with outside interests, so as to avoid conflict of interests.
"The new, the first-ever code of conduct for MEPs will be a strong shield against unethical behaviour and a major improvement on the present status quo. I appreciate the wide consensus in favour of the code, drawn up in record time of 10 weeks. Today is the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty - it is an excellent day to adopt the code - more power means more responsibility", said EP President Jerzy Buzek.
"The wide consensus expressed by MEPs on the new code of conduct has a symbolic meaning that cannot be ignored. It proves to the public opinion that the European Parliament is a transparent body to serve common good and build a Europe based on freedom and justice. It also shows the renewed commitment by MEPs towards the community that elected them" said Constitutional Affairs Committee chair and rapporteur Carlo Casini (EPP, IT), before the vote.
The code's guiding principle is transparency. MEPs will have to provide clear declarations of their paid activities outside Parliament and their remuneration, as well as of any other functions which might constitute a conflict of interest.
The code also contains an explicit ban on receiving payments or other rewards in exchange for influencing parliamentary decisions. There are clear rules on the acceptance of gifts and on the position of former MEPs working as lobbyists.
MEPs will have to state, publicly and on line, any professional activity performed during the three years before their election, as well as any membership of any board of companies, NGOs and/or associations held during that period or currently.
Any remunerated activity undertaken during the term of office, including writing, lecturing and providing expert advice, even if occasional, will have to be made public if it earns more than €5,000 a year.
Financial support of any nature and any financial interest that may cause a conflict of interests will also have to be disclosed. Any change to the declaration must be notified within 30 days and in the event of failure, the member will no longer be eligible to hold offices within Parliament.
Any gift or benefit valued at more than €150 received by an MEP during the performance of his or her duty must be refused or, if the MEP was officially representing Parliament, passed on to Parliament's President. Reimbursement of direct costs will not be deemed a gift, if the event is attended further to an official invitation.
Should the code be breached, and upon a decision by the President after having consulted an advisory committee, a member may be sanctioned with a reprimand, a forfeiture of the daily allowance from two up to ten days, temporary suspension from Parliament's activities (not including the right to vote) for a maximum of 10 days, or the loss of the role of rapporteur or other elected offices within Parliament (for the latter two sanctions, a confirmatory decision by the President is needed). Any such sanctions will be published on Parliament's web site.
Former MEPs who subsequently work as lobbyists in a field directly linked to EU affairs will not benefit from the facilities otherwise provided, during the time of such activity.
An advisory committee will provide guidance to MEPs and advise the President on what steps to take in the event of alleged breaches of the code.
Parliament's Bureau will lay down measures for implementing the code of conduct, and in particular for the introduction of a monitoring procedure.
The code of conduct was approved with 619 votes in favour, 2 against and 6 abstentions. The new rules enter into force on 1 January 2012.
Procedure: amendment to EP Rules of Procedure