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European Parliament passes new transparency rules after Qatar-EU corruption probe

New rules include a requirement to declare all paid side work of more than 5,000 euros
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola speaks during a press conference in Brussels, on 29 June 2023.
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola speaks during a press conference in Brussels, on 29 June 2023 (AFP)

Members of the European Parliament have ushered in an enhancement of its transparency rules, following a major corruption scandal in which MEPs were accused of taking bribes from Qatar.

The new rules for lawmakers in the bloc include a requirement to declare all paid work activities if their overall side income is more than 5,000 euros ($5,365), and a ban on engaging with former MEPs who left the parliament in the past six months.

MEPs will also not be allowed to receive any gifts worth more than 150 euros ($161). Any gifts exceeding that amount would have to be handed over to the president of the parliament. An MEP would also have to declare any event they attended in which their costs were paid for by a separate entity.

"Proud that in record time, we took unprecedented decisions to strengthen integrity, independence and accountability," Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on the X social media platform after the vote.

Europe has been shaken by Belgian authorities’ investigation into allegations that members of the European Parliament took bribes from Qatar in exchange for influence.

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Last December, Belgian authorities sparked the scandal by detaining six people in an operation where police seized more than $1.6m in cash.

Four of them - including an MEP from Greece and former European Parliament vice president, Eva Kaili - have been charged with "criminal organisation, corruption, and money laundering". The other two were released.

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That same month, the European Parliament voted to stop all legislative work related to Qatar and bar the country’s representatives from parliamentary premises.

The new transparency rules passed with a vote of 505 in favour to 93 against, and will go into effect this November.

Still, some advocates for increased transparency in the parliament are not convinced the new rules will help curb corruption.

​​"There are a number of MEPs that will have to amend their declarations to remove information that they will no longer be obliged to give on side activities," Transparency International EU acting director Nick Aiossa told Politico.

"In a reform exercise, as a matter of principle, you shouldn’t be watering down existing transparency rules."

Wednesday's vote also comes ahead of the European Parliament's elections in 2024, in which right-wing parties are expected to make big gains at the expense of the bloc's more centrist parties.

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