Thursday, 31 March 2011

Corruption in the European Parliament

Corrupt MEP caught on tape

There are close to 5000 registered lobbyists in Brussels trying to influence the the European Parliament and other EU institutions. Many of these lobbyists are probably working within the limits of laws and regulations honest in order to influence the decision makers. However, the Sunday Times recently showed how easy it is for lobbyists to get members of the EU parliament to advance special interest causes by paying them to do it: :

The Sunday Times claimed a total of three MEPs – including a former deputy prime minister – had agreed to work for a fake lobbying company in return for a fee and had subsequently put forward amendments to key draft legislation in the European parliament.
The newspaper said two of the amendments went on to appear in official parliamentary documents, exactly as instructed by the fake lobbying company.
One amendment was intended to water down the Deposit Guarantee Schemes directive, a key financial reform designed to protect customers’ deposits in the event of another banking collapse.
If proven, the allegations could prove highly damaging to the reputation of the European parliament, which has become a magnet for corporate lobbyists seeking to influence European legislation.
Lobbyists say that MEPs can be easy to influence because they tend to have small staffs and limited technical expertise in many of the policy areas over which they preside. In some cases, lobbyists have drafted the actual amendments that MEPs have later voted into law.
Sunday Times reporters approached Mr Strasser offering him a seat on an advisory board of a fake lobbying company.
Mr Strasser was taped offering to help with an amendment on behalf of investment firms seeking changes to the Investor Compensation Schemes directive. “You send me the amendment and what your client wants to change. Yes?”

Read the entire FT article here.

The Austrian MEP - the former Austrian interior minister Ernst Strasser - named in the Sunday Times report has now resigned after he was filmed claiming that he already worked for five companies who each paid him up to 100.000 a year. Mr. Strasser was caught offering to help with an amendment seeking changes to the Investment Compensations Schemes directive. The two other MEPs who were cought by the Sunday Times offering services against cash, were Adrian Severin, former Romanian deputy prime minister and Zoran Thaler, former Slovenian foreign minister. Severin and Thaler have not yet resigned.

The Sunday Times report is just one example of what is going on in this rotten so called parliament, which regrettably has been given more powers by the the new EU constitution, better known as the Lisbon treaty.

And, as expected, the EU parliament is doing everything in its power to block the EU´s own anti-fraud office from investigating the corruption:

The European Anti-Fraud Office, or OLAF, thinks it should be the one investigating. After all, what’s the point of having a dedicated EU anti-fraud agency if you can’t investigate credible allegations that MEPs are taking bribes?
But when an OLAF team showed up in the parliament to search the MEPs offices last week, they were unceremoniously denied entry by parliamentary authorities. Parliamentarians insisted OLAF was set up to investigate fraud against the EU budget, and it’s not clear that the EU has lost money in this episode.
OLAF disagrees on the limits of its role, but so far hasn’t been anywhere near the MEPs’ offices, which have been sealed off

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