The EU Observer (https://euobserver.com) has two recent articles on this theme. We quote extensively from the two articles, rather than repeat points we have made earlier in our linked posts.
The first article (https://euobserver.com/opinion/156549) is by Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman, who is responsible for investigation maladministration within the EU institutions, and is headed “How to restore the European Parliament’s reputation”. Ms O’Reilly asks the rhetorical question, “What happens when a weak anti-corruption system meets a strong desire to corrupt?” She declares that the answer becomes obvious when the facts about the recent scandals in the European Parliament become known; the desire to corrupt takes precedence and corruption becomes the norm.
However, “In fairness to parliament, it is now, even if belatedly, acknowledging the porous nature of its anti-corruption system.”
Corruption is found in most, and probably virtually all, governments to a greater or lesser degree (https://www.visualcapitalist.com/mapped-corruption-in-countries-around-the-world/). Perhaps the EU has responded to this exposure (by the Belgian police) rather than covered it up. Of course a cover up would be worse for the EU if it were ever discovered.
Conflicts of interest arise because the conduct of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is monitored by MEPs themselves and because “MEPs are allowed to have second jobs”. She argues that such rules as there are should be tightened and that it is possible for this to be done without hampering the work of MEPs. However, MEPs who break with their previous professions will lose their connections and current expertise. This would make them dependant on retaining their positions, maybe becoming ‘yes men’ or even seeking other, discreet ways of supplementing their incomes. They are also more likely to be absorbed by the ‘system’ and lose the perspective of voters.
We covered issues of corruption in earlier posts including: “More on Lobbying and Corruption” in April 2021”; and “Lobbying, Corruption and EU Decision-Making” in March 2021. Here is a current example: on finally leaving the EU in 2019 the UK transposed the former’s market regulations into its own laws with the declared purpose of reviewing them and repealing those which were discriminatory, unnecessary or inhibited harmless growth. Progress has been slow and some Tory MPs are starting to push the Government to act. The Trade Marks Directive (1989) allows large firms to block sales of goods imported from non-EU countries where they have been purchased at a lower price. In 2001 the CJEU blocked Tesco from selling Levi jeans it had imported from the US, overturning previous decisions by British courts. This is not in interest of consumers but of the big brand companies, which continue to lobby assiduously.
As we do, Ms O’Reilly links corruption with lobbying; rules for the latter being few, weak and poorly managed.
The “lobbying playbook has remained largely unchanged over the years with lobbyists doing whatever it takes to exercise influence through a network of informal and formal contacts, at both the political and expert levels, and throughout the entire decision-making process.”
“The greatest service the parliament could do for itself, for its reputation, and to restore the damaged trust among the public, is to live up to this promise by taking strong, concrete, and lasting action.”
The second article, (https://euobserver.com/opinion/156545), headed “’Qatargate’ is the tip of the iceberg”, was written by authors who “are researchers for Corporate Europe Observatory, an NGO monitoring corporate lobbying in Brussels”.
Greek MEP, Eva Kaili, was obliged to stand down from her senior post with the EU, and was later arrested, in connection with suspicions that Qatar had bribed EU officials to support their case to hold the world football cup there. “Qatargate is shocking: the idea that elected officials would take actual bribes from one of the most repressive regimes in the world …But to those of us who have been working for years to cast a light on EU corruption, this latest scandal is not a shock, or even a surprise”
The authors argue that the scandal is the product of neglect by EU officials, who have not taken action to curb the activities of lobbyists, working for special interests. The authors give some examples from the work of their organisation.
“At Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), we are calling on EU institutions to implement long overdue reforms”.
“And there needs to be a crackdown on the revolving door policy (the phenomenon of rotating staff between the office of legislator and positions in the industry affected by legislation) and the financing of political parties by authoritarian governments.”
“Finally, we need to make public the ownership of companies and assets, so that we can track down dirty money in the EU and around the world.”
EUObserver has a further article on the same theme, which was published on Boxing Day: (https://euobserver.com/rule-of-law/156566)