Parliament strengthens integrity, independence and accountability

A set of wide-ranging reforms aimed at strengthening integrity, independence and accountability, while protecting the free mandate of MEPs, has been adopted over the last months.

These measures aim to reinforce integrity and close loopholes to protect the Institution and its Members from attempts to interfere in Parliament’s work.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said: “The reforms we have put in place in the last months boost the integrity of Parliament's systems, make decision-making more transparent and strengthen the Parliament as a whole. We want to consolidate trust with the European citizens and re-affirm the European Parliament as an open institution. Next year we will return with a more modern and more efficient Parliament.”

Closing loopholes

The measures follow plenary resolutions from December 2022 and February 2023 calling for an increase in transparency and accountability as well as a stronger culture of security regarding foreign interference attempts.

Parliament’s Bureau, which takes decisions on administrative, organisational and staff matters, approved revised rules on former Members (new revolving door policy), new rules on access to the Parliament, and transparency obligations on interest representatives’ participation in events held on Parliament’s premises. The Bureau also adopted new internal rules on whistleblowing to ensure consistency with the European directive on the protection to whistleblowers.

Parliament has also reinforced its cooperation with national judicial and law enforcement authorities by swiftly acting upon requests by national authorities, among others for waiver of parliamentary immunity.

Separately, group leaders clarified the rules regarding human rights urgency debates in plenary to protect the procedure from undue interference. Group leaders in the Conference of Presidents also approved guidelines to support MEPs and staff in their relations with representatives from non-EU countries (diplomats and state representatives). Parliament finally saw its call for an ambitious and independent EU ethics body answered as the European Commission presented a proposal for an interinstitutional agreement.

In parallel, changes to the Parliament’s rules of procedure were adopted by the Parliament in September 2023. They include: a reinforced ban on all MEP activities that would constitute lobbying, more transparency on inputs from external actors, harsher penalties for breaches of the Code of Conduct, a wider scope of mandatory declarations of MEPs' about meetings with third parties, clearer rules to help avoid conflicts of interest, increased details in the declarations of private interests by members, and mandatory declarations of assets at the beginning and end of every term of office.

In addition, there are stronger rules on MEPs accepting gifts and declaring travel and subsistence costs for third parties as well as a ban on engagement with former MEPs in the six months after they leave the Parliament. The role of the Advisory Committee on the Code of Conduct has also been strengthened and its composition been enlarged.

The Bureau adopted in November updated internal rules on whistleblowers. The rules clarify the possibilities for any person working in Parliament to report serious irregularities (including anonymously). The rules indicate what potential whistleblowers should do, what they can expect to happen after they make the notification, and what information they should expect to receive.

In addition, whistleblowing training is made mandatory for the managerial staff of the European Parliament's services. Mandatory training on whistleblowing for accredited assistants will also be proposed.

Further recommendations

Other medium and long-term measures have been proposed by the special committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation , which were debated and voted on during the July 2023 plenary session.

Easily accessible information

Parliament’s website now provides centralised and easily accessible information related to the integrity of parliamentary work under a new Transparency and Ethics tab.

Advances in anti-harassment policies

President Metsola mandated the quaestors to work on proposals to reinforce Parliament’s anti-harassment policies. The Bureau decided on 10 July to establish a mediation service and gave its political backing to the introduction of mandatory training for MEPs. The Bureau also agreed to improve the existing procedure of the Advisory Committee dealing with harassment complaints concerning members. The Bureau on 20 November 2023 finalised the establishment of the mediator and its service and agreed on implementation reports to be presented twice per mandate.


Awareness raising and training

To accompany all the changes and ensure their proper implementation, Parliament runs regular awareness-raising campaigns on obligations for MEPs and staff. It offers dedicated training to staff and Members to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the ethics and transparency requirements that are in place to safeguard the integrity of parliamentary work.

Modernisation of Parliament’s ways of working

In addition, a wider reform of the Parliament’s way of working was launched by the Conference of Presidents in January 2023 covering the legislative, budgetary, scrutiny, plenary and external dimensions of Parliament's work.