EP inquiry committee into Panama Papers
The European Parliament Conference of Presidents, uniting the EP president and political group leaders, unanimously backed today the setting up of an inquiry committee* to investigate the so-called Panama Papers, which revealed detailed information on off-shore companies and their ultimate beneficiaries.
The mandate will be determined on 4 May by the Conference of Presidents, with the full House taking a vote during the May plenary session in Strasbourg.
* Rule 198
Committees of inquiry
1. Parliament may, at the request of one quarter of its component Members, set up a
committee of inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions of Union law or alleged
maladministration in the application of Union law which would appear to be the act of an
institution or body of the European Union, of a public administrative body of a Member State, or of persons empowered by Union law to implement that law.
The decision to set up a committee of inquiry shall be published in the Official Journal of the
European Union within one month. In addition, Parliament shall take all the necessary steps to make this decision as widely known as possible.
2. The modus operandi of a committee of inquiry shall be governed by the provisions of these
Rules relating to committees, save as otherwise specifically provided for in this Rule and in the Decision of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 19 April 1995 on the detailed provisions governing the exercise of the European Parliament's right of inquiry, which is annexed to these Rules23.
3. The request to set up a committee of inquiry must specify precisely the subject of the
inquiry and include a detailed statement of the grounds for it. Parliament, on a proposal from the Conference of Presidents, shall decide whether to set up a committee and, if it decides to do so, on its composition, in accordance with Rule 199.
4. A committee of inquiry shall conclude its work by submitting a report within not more than 12 months. Parliament may twice decide to extend this period by three months.
Only full members or, in their absence, permanent substitutes may vote in a committee of inquiry.
5. A committee of inquiry shall elect its Chair and two Vice-Chairs and appoint one or more
rapporteurs. The committee may also assign responsibilities, duties or specific tasks to its members who must subsequently report to the committee in detail thereon.
In the interval between one meeting and another, the bureau of the committee shall, in cases of urgency or need, exercise the committee's powers, subject to ratification at the next meeting.
6. If a committee of inquiry considers that any of its rights have been infringed, it shall
propose that the President take appropriate measures.
7. A committee of inquiry may contact the institutions or persons referred to in Article 3 of
the Decision referred to in paragraph 2 with a view to holding a hearing or obtaining documents. The travel and accommodation expenses of members and officials of Union institutions and bodies shall be borne by those institutions and bodies. Travel and accommodation expenses of other persons who appear before a committee of inquiry shall be reimbursed by the European Parliament in accordance with the rules governing hearings of experts. Persons called to give evidence before a committee of inquiry may claim the rights they would enjoy if appearing as a witness before a tribunal in their country of origin. They must be informed of these rights before they make a statement to the committee.
With regard to the languages used, a committee of inquiry shall apply the provisions of Rule 158. However, the bureau of the committee:
– may restrict interpretation to the official languages of those taking part in the
deliberations, if it deems this necessary for reasons of confidentiality,
– shall decide about translation of the documents received in such a way as to ensure
that the committee can carry out its deliberations efficiently and rapidly and that the
necessary secrecy and confidentiality are respected.
8. The Chair of a committee of inquiry shall, together with the bureau, ensure that the secrecy
or confidentiality of deliberations are respected and shall give members due notice to this effect. The Chair shall also explicitly refer to the provisions of Article 2(2) of the Decision referred to above. Part A of Annex VII to these Rules of Procedure shall apply.
9. Secret or confidential documents which have been forwarded shall be examined using
technical measures to ensure that only the members responsible for the case have personal access to them. The members in question shall give a solemn undertaking not to allow any other person access to secret or confidential information, in accordance with this Rule, and to use such information exclusively for the purposes of drawing up their report for the committee of inquiry. Meetings shall be held on premises equipped in such a way as to make it impossible for any non-authorised persons to listen to the proceedings.
10. After completion of its work a committee of inquiry shall submit to Parliament a report on the results of its work, containing minority opinions if appropriate in accordance with the
conditions laid down in Rule 56. The report shall be published.
At the request of the committee of inquiry Parliament shall hold a debate on the report at the
part-session following its submission.
The committee may also submit to Parliament a draft recommendation addressed to institutions or bodies of the European Union or the Member States.
11. The President shall instruct the committee responsible under Annex VI to monitor the
action taken on the results of the work of the committee of inquiry and, if appropriate, to report thereon, and shall take any further steps which are deemed appropriate to ensure that the conclusions of the inquiry are acted upon in practice.
Only the proposal from the Conference of Presidents concerning the composition of a committee of inquiry (paragraph 3) is open to amendment, in accordance with Rule 199(2).
The subject of the inquiry as defined by one quarter of Parliament's component Members
(paragraph 3) and the period laid down in paragraph 4 are not open to amendments.