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Weaknesses found in MEP ethics rules

19 July 2012
by foeeurope -- last modified 19 July 2012

First analysis casts doubts on accuracy and transparency of data with quarter of MEPs declaring no prior occupation


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New ethics rules in the European Parliament are not strict enough to ensure complete transparency on MEPs' outside interests, and therefore prevent potential conflicts of interest, shows the first analysis of declarations made under the new MEP code of conduct.

The research conducted by Friends of the Earth Europe, and released today, reveals weaknesses in the new declaration system introduced in January in response to last year's 'cash for law' scandal.

The questionable accuracy of the data provided by some MEPs, and the failure of some MEPs to treat the declaration seriously, means full transparency cannot yet be assured.

Friends of the Earth Europe, together with partners from the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), are recommending clear implementation rules to prevent fresh scandals.

Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "We are encouraged to see that almost all MEPs have filled in their declaration, which suggests widespread awareness on the need for the European Parliament to improve its records on transparency and ethics. However, one in four MEPs claim to have had no occupation before entering the Parliament and this raises serious questions about the accuracy of the data provided and highlights the need for stricter monitoring of the declarations. Given the significant number of MEPs declaring outside interests, a review by President Schulz of the risks of potential conflicts of interest is very much needed."  

Analysis of the declarations of interest of the 754 sitting MEPs found:
- Almost all MEPs submitted their declaration on time, and the two exceptions had justified reasons
- 88 (12%) of the submitted declarations are empty
- 567 MEPs (75%) declare at least one occupation before taking office; 97 MEPs (13%) declare not having had an occupation prior to taking office and 88 MEPs (12%) left their declarations empty, therefore almost a quarter of MEPs do not declare any occupation prior to taking up their mandate
- 118 MEPs (16%) declare remunerated activity outside of their mandate but 19 out of them do not declare how much income they receive
- 387 MEPs (52%) declare memberships of boards or committees; of these 152 (39%) declare having more than three memberships.

To improve the accessibility and accuracy of the information submitted by MEPs, Friends of the Earth Europe recommends:
- Improvements to the system for the submission of declarations: the introduction of a central searchable online database for all declarations and a fixed deadline for updates, and the translation of declarations into at least one 'procedural language' of the European Commission, (English, French or German), in order to enable better access and scrutiny by citizens, journalists and other stakeholders
- A review by European Parliament President Schulz to assess potential conflicts of interest for MEPs that have outside financial interests
- The mandate of the advisory committee on the code of conduct should be extended to a proactive monitoring and investigative role. Clarifications about the current wording of the declaration's questions are needed to avoid confusion over interpretation among MEPs.

The 'Code of conduct for Members of the European Parliament with respect to financial interests and conflicts of interest' entered into force on January 1, 2012. In accordance with the new guidelines all MEPs' declarations of interest had to be up to date by March 30.

Friends of the Earth Europe is the largest grassroots environmental network in Europe, uniting 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups. It is the European arm of Friends of the Earth International which unites 76 national member organisations, some 5,000 local activist groups, and over two million supporters around the world.

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