Last December, following the eruption of the Qatar and Moroccogate corruption scandal, MEPs in Strasbourg were adamant about driving forward zero tolerance for corruption. Two months in and the grande claims of political groups have fizzled out leaving the European Parliament with an opaque plan put forward by the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. 

Here are 4 ways the European Parliament is not living up to its promises and is failing in its fight against corruption.  

1. One thing in public, another in private 

Last December, the European Parliament set out 15 measures to curb corruption and ingrain transparency and accountability in its daily work. Rather than doing everything in her power to ensure that these measures were speedily applied, European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, put forward a 14 point plan scrapping 11 out of the 15 measures. Setting aside most of the commitments in the widely endorsed December resolution and replacing them by a plan negotiated behind closed doors is not the way to restore the Parliament’s integrity!

2. Refuse responsibility, blame NGOs 

The corruption scandal has put the spotlight on the scant and lax rules within the European Parliament regulating the conduct of staff and MEPs. Rather than focusing on improving the rules and their enforcement, the right wing is seizing the opportunity to shift the blame to civil society organisations. By blaming NGOs, the EPP group is deflecting attention from the ethical reforms needed in the so-called European house of democracy. These include, for example, measures such as the establishment of a committee of inquiry, mandatory declaration of assets and income for all MEPs at the beginning and end of each mandate. This would, for instance, reveal the exorbitant side jobs and earnings made by MEPs such as Manfred Weber’s €20,000 salary as Chair of European People’s Party, on top of his salary as MEP. 

3. Political point-scoring before doing the right thing

Political groups and Parliament’s President have gone to great lengths to express their shock and outrage regarding the corruption scandal. In the past two months we have heard time and again how the European Parliament needs to work to clean up its house to regain the trust of citizens

Fighting corruption and hardwiring integrity in the workings of the European Parliament and European institutions is not something that we see as a means to an end. Rather, we are calling on the European Parliament to follow through with the measures adopted in the December resolution because it is the right thing to do. Doing what is right and ethical is the only way to ensure citizens do not lose faith in politics. 

4. Ignoring the elephant in the room: corporate lobbying

While the Morocco and Qatargate corruption scandals have placed the spotlight on the role of third countries in shaping EU policy making, the real elephant in the room here is corporate lobbying. Last year The Economist reported that 25,000 lobbyists with a combined annual budget conservatively estimated at more than €3bn seek to influence EU policy, dwarfing the sums seized by the Belgian police in the Qatargate scandal. Approximately 7,500 lobbyists are accredited to the European Parliament, meaning that they are regularly able to meet with MEPs who are – still– under no obligation to register the meetings in the EU Transparency Register. There have been egregious cases of shady lobbying involving big tech, fossil fuels and digital platforms, illustrating the relentless corporate lobbying targeting EU institutions. Until this is comprehensively addressed and regulated in the reforms, accountability and integrity will remain a long-standing mirage. 

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