Friday, 1 April 2011

Letter from Buzek - Too little Too late

Buzek should get a new pair of spectacles to really see whats happening!

Below is a letter from EU Parliament President Buzek all MEP´s received yesterday following the Sunday Times `Cash for Amendments`revelations that led to the resignation of two MEPs and the possible impeachment of another.  Whilst I welcome this 'closing the gate'  letter by President Buzek, it is far too Little too late - MEPs have been a law unto themselves for far too long with a blind eye being turned. The parliament that knows no cuts has pushed through increases in MEPs pay, medical benefits, staff allowances and even an 82% increase in its entertainment budget.
Yet two weeks ago, President Buzeks office vetoed my Written Declaration calling for a Report from the Court of Auditors on MEP's abuse of subsistence allowance.

Dear Colleague,

At tomorrow morning's meeting of the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents, we will be discussing the consequences of disappointing behaviour on the part of some of our colleagues.

I believe that we need to look very closely at the question of what we expect from Members of the European Parliament, both in terms of their own behaviour and their interface with outside interests of various kinds.

I would propose that we discuss a number of possible initiatives that we might take to raise standards and improve transparency, and then decide quickly how to proceed in terms of practical follow-up.

First, many of us have long been in favour of a mandatory register of lobbyists and others seeking access to influence decision-making within the EU institutions. Despite the huge efforts of our colleague, Diana Wallis, Vice President, and her working party on the subject, what we have so far achieved is a voluntary register applying to only two institutions. As a Parliament, I believe that we should now propose to the European Commission that it comes forward with legislation which would establish a mandatory register for all institutions.

Second, in the interim, we need to tighten up our own internal rules concerning access for outside interests here in the Parliament. We should establish a de facto mandatory register of our own, as a stepping stone towards a formally mandatory register across the institutions. At my request, the Secretary General is now requiring that lobbyists register on a daily basis, even if they hold a one-year pass, in order to record with whom they are meeting or which meeting they are attending on our premises.

Third, the Parliament's own requirements on what constitutes acceptable behaviour by colleagues need to be strengthened. Any actual or potential conflict of interest must be declared. Members who advocate any cause or interest in which they have a direct financial interest (or an anticipated interest) must make this fact known clearly and unequivocally in writing. The question of second jobs of Members also needs to be addressed. Members should be required to update their existing declaration of interests much more regularly than once a year - ideally within a maximum of one month of any change in their circumstances.

Fourth, we should look very seriously at requiring Members who are rapporteurs to publish a 'legislative footprint', in which they would list clearly all outside organisations or individuals with whom they consulted or from whom they received advice in the preparation of their reports. In parallel, the Parliament's own services could offer a more comprehensive service in advising Members on the drafting of potential legislative amendments.

Fifth, there needs to be a more general obligation, set down in our Rules of Procedure, that Members should not engage in dishonourable behaviour in pursuit of their parliamentary duties or engage in actions likely to bring the House into disrepute.

Sixth, there is a certain irony in the fact that, in our business today, we will be commenting on the new Code of Conduct for European Commissioners, without having an effective one of our own. I propose that we look closely at the Commissioners' code, as well as the obligations in the 27 national parliaments, to see whether there are certain general principles on which we can readily agree.

Seventh, we need to decide on how any breaches of such rules are dealt with in order to ensure a swift and effective response to situations which might arise in the future. Tougher sanctions will need to be introduced, as appropriate. In this context, we should look at the option of creating an ethics committee, whether based on an existing body or composed especially for the purpose.  

There will certainly be other proposals and ideas on the table as we approach this important question, in addition to those I have outlined above. I look forward to discussing them all with you tomorrow.

The European Parliament has recently acquired new powers and is now in effect the joint legislature with the Council in most policy areas within the European Union. With power comes responsibility. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we rise to the challenge we are facing.

Yours faithfully,

Jerzy Buzek

30 March 2011