Qatargate: lobbying by former MEPs now better regulated

The reform of the ethical rules in the European Parliament has made a first step forward

Qatargate: lobbying by former MEPs now better regulated

The reform of the ethical rules in the European Parliament has made a first step forward. Roberta Metsola, the president, obtained Monday from the office of the Parliament the prohibition of the lobbying of the former deputies during the first six months after the end of their mandate. This so-called "cooling off" period is the result of a compromise between the political parties in Parliament. Let us be clear: they can convert to lobbying whenever they want, but they cannot lobby their former colleagues within six months of the end of their mandate.

In the Qatargate affair, the former Italian socialist deputy Pier Antonio Panzeri had become a human rights activist, a lobbying activity adorned with deceptive virtue to, in fact, extend his network of corruption in favor of the Qatar and Morocco with his former parliamentary colleagues. This case has shed a harsh light on the unlimited access of former MPs to the precincts of Parliament. A privilege that many have seized to practice lobbying without declaring this activity in the Parliament's transparency register. There were, in fact, only three former deputies officially registered in the register…

Roberta Metsola has however encountered some resistance, even within her political family, the Christian Democrats of the EPP. When she puts forward this proposal, she advocates a cooling off period of twelve months. For EPP MEPs, that is out of the question. On the other hand, the Greens and the Socialists (who have things to forget), the period of prohibition must extend over twenty-four months. The extreme left had not clearly formulated a minimum period but, in any case, the proposed period seemed to them too short.

The CoP adopted Metsola's proposal a few weeks ago. Monday, it was the office's turn to speak. The case presented itself in a more delicate way to the point that the 14 vice-presidents neutralized themselves 7 against 7. On the one hand, the votes in favor of the proposal: the vice-presidents EPP, Renew (liberal) and ECR (sovereignists). On the other, 7 votes against considering that six months of prohibition is too short: the 5 socialist vice-presidents, the vice-president of the Greens and the vice-president of The Left (extreme left). In the event of a tie, the vote of President Roberta Metsola is the deciding vote. We can therefore say that the Maltese obtained the decision she wanted, even if at the start, her proposal for a one-year cooling off was more ambitious.

Technically, the six-month period also corresponds to the period during which former deputies receive an end-of-term indemnity, the time to turn around. "If we had extended this period, there was a risk that legal proceedings would lead to an unfavorable decision by the judge for a lack of proportionality of the measure", we indicate to the office of the president. If a former MEP deviates from the rule, the services of the Parliament will have to report it to President Metsola, who has the power to revoke the access rights of the individual found at fault, as well as the associated advantages (access to the bar reserved members, health cover, etc.).

The reform remains to be refined in terms of details. Former MPs will no longer have unlimited accreditation (which also allowed them to accredit their families!). In the future, they will have to provide proof of daily accreditation. An application will allow them to register in advance. If they arrive at the reception of the European Parliament on the same day without having announced themselves, they will have to obtain a badge at the accreditations office like any other visitor. It is a question of developing a fast lane for them.

Other measures are in preparation concerning the supervision of events organized within the Parliament. The transparency register will have to be more systematically filled in by participants, including for events created by the MEPs themselves and their co-organizers. In short, one no longer enters the European Parliament like entering a mill. We want to know who's on the premises. End of a long naivety.