One month after the allegations and charges against some MEPs, Parliament took stock of developments and demanded concrete action to close loopholes.
Opening the debate on behalf of the European Commission, Commissioner Ylva Johansson decried the “few who had put at risk the good work of so many”. More transparency and accountability alone is not enough to fight corruption, which needs to be tackled with the full force of the law, she added. She then announced that, very soon, the Commission would table a new law to criminalise all forms of corruption, with unified definitions and penalties across the EU and the necessary tools for police and courts. A second set of measures, the “defence of democracy package”, is also being prepared, the Commissioner added.
MEPs who took the floor on behalf of the political groups expressed their continued anger, shame, and shock at the allegations of corruption, with speakers from a broad majority resenting that the actions of a few individuals are casting a shadow on the House that represents all Europeans.
Reiterating that democracy is not for sale and that reforms are urgently needed to protect democracy from corruption and foreign interference, the debate revolved around specific proposals on the way forward, including:
- the establishment of a committee dedicated to the matter in question;
- making the EU Transparency Register fully mandatory;
- establishing an Independent Ethics Body for the EU institutions;
- improving rules related to whistleblowing;
- better enforcing existing rules; and
- taking fully into account the input of the two special committees on foreign interference (INGE and ING2).
Most MEPs agreed that boosting transparency and accountability can only happen openly, publicly, and by assuming responsibility where necessary, in order to regain public trust. Many pointed out that it is not a matter of which country is in the spotlight at the moment for trying to interfere in European democracy, but instead that the EU and Parliament in particular need to protect themselves from such attempts.
Some referred to a perceived culture of impunity and to the adverse effects of lobbying, and complained that MEPs’ additional income and the way in which their allowances are spent are not monitored closely enough. A few expressed doubts about whether the existing political structures are capable of addressing these issues, while others considered that the Parliament has reacted with remarkable determination to address the problem.
You can watch the full debate again here.