What’s cooking in Strasbourg?

From Claire Stam

On Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will present the program of the Swedish Presidency. It is one of the highlights of the coming week in Strasbourg. Others include: the meeting of the ENVI committee to discuss the recently adopted elements of the Fit for 55 package (Monday), and a debate with a resolution on Iran.

But it is, of course, the corruption scandal that will be on everyone’s minds in the EU capital in Alsace. After she was forced to vacate her post, parliamentarians must decide who will succeed Eva Kaili as Vice President on Tuesday.

As readers of Europe.Table, you already know:

Luxembourger Marc Angel is well on his way to replacing Eva Kaili in the Parliament’s presidency. The MEP was nominated on Wednesday as the official candidate of the S&D group. Socialists hope Marc Angel will be supported by the other political groups. Indeed, the main political groups agreed at the beginning of 2022 that this post would fall to the Socialists. The Greens, however, do not agree with this arrangement and are putting forward their own candidate: Frenchwoman Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, who was also nominated by her group last Wednesday.

Loopholes in Metsola’s plan

Parliament Speaker Metsola yesterday presented 14 proposals to make the EP more transparent. It is an attempt to polish up the image of the Parliament after the corruption scandal surrounding Eva Kaili. Some of the proposals go very far, but there are loopholes.

French Socialist MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, Chairman of the Special Committee on Foreign Interference in EU Democratic Processes, called for the creation of an investigative committee and an EU authority on transparency in public life at the European level, modeled on the French Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique (HATVP). He comes from a party, the Parti Socialiste Français, that was regularly shaken by scandals until recently. The party is struggling to turn over a new leaf.

Fear of populism in the European elections

The 14-point plan presented by President Roberta Metsola shows her firm intention to take control in this scandal that calls into question not only Parliament’s legitimacy but also her authority – and keep it. After all, their actions are closely watched by the Commission and the Council. Both institutions are anxious to ensure that this scandal does not fall on them, or does not fall on them too much. But does she really have the full support of her group in this? And that of the other parties?

The Christmas holidays could not erase the memory of the political significance of this scandal, quite the contrary. The European elections will take place next year and many fear that this scandal could be exploited by populists of all kinds. Various political headquarters are thus very interested in solving the case as quickly as possible and at the same time showing that they have learned their lesson.

Fight against corruption too slow

The Parliament has been debating transparency and fighting corruption for 30 years, writes Olivier Costa, Director of political studies at the Collège d’Europe and Research Director at the CNRS (the French equivalent of the Max Planck Institute), in a guest editorial in the French business newspaper La Tribune. Progress has been made, he said, but it is too slow to stop particularly unscrupulous lobbyists and greedy MPs.

The current corruption scandal brings back memories of a shameful incident a few years ago: The EU Register, which has been the subject of repeated reports since the scandal was uncovered, was launched in 2011 in response to the Sunday Times “fake lobbyists” scandal. At the time, three MEPs had been lured into a trap by journalists from the British weekly newspaper and had agreed to submit amendments in exchange for bribes of up to €100,000.

Following a scandal of the magnitude currently affecting the European Parliament, it is to be hoped that anti-corruption legislation will soon change.


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