Parliament has taken stock of the Commission’s draft agreement for an independent ethics body for the EU institutions, criticising its lack of ambition.
In a resolution adopted with 365 votes in favour, 270 against, and 20 abstentions, Parliament calls the ethics body draft agreement “unsatisfactory and not ambitious enough, falling short of a genuine, ethics body” as envisaged by Parliament already two years ago.
It also regrets that the Commission has proposed that only five independent experts will be part of the body (one per EU institution) and only as observers, rather than the nine-person body composed of independent ethics experts that Parliament had previously asked for. MEPs insist that the ethics body should be able to investigate alleged breaches of ethical rules, and also have the power to request administrative documents (respecting MEPs’ immunity and freedom of mandate). It should have the authority to investigate alleged breaches of ethics rules on its own initiative and deal with individual cases if a participating institution or any of its members request it, they underline. MEPs also stress that the body should be able to issue recommendations for sanctions, which should be made public together with the decision taken by the respective institution or after a deadline.
Other key points raised in the resolution include the need for independent experts dealing with individual cases to work together with the member of the body representing the institution concerned, the body’s ability to receive and assess declarations of interest and assets, and its awareness-raising and guidance role.
MEPs also regret that the proposal does not cover the staff of the institutions, who are subject to common obligations already, and stresses the need for the body to protect whistleblowers, in particular European public officials.
Revision of Parliament’s rules
As for Parliament’s own efforts towards more transparency, integrity, and accountability, MEPs underline that Parliament is currently reviewing its framework with a view to strengthening procedures on how to deal with breaches of its rules (in particular the Code of Conduct), to better define its sanctions mechanism, and structurally reform the relevant advisory committee. They emphasise that in recent corruption allegations, NGOs appear to have been used as vectors of foreign interference, and call for an urgent review of existing regulations with the aim of making NGOs more transparent and accountable. Comprehensive financial pre-screening should be required for entities to be listed in the EU Transparency Register, ‘revolving doors’ incidents involving NGOs should be studied further in terms of conflicts of interest, and the future members of the ethics body must recuse themselves from files that pertain to work of NGOs from which they have received remuneration, MEPs emphasise.
Parliament will participate in the negotiations with Council and Commission with President Roberta Metsola in the lead, aiming to conclude them by the end of 2023, and using its 2021 resolution as the basis of Parliament’s negotiating stance.