EU parliament looks to tighten lobbying rules for ex-MEPs
The European Parliament is pushing to stop former members from lobbying legislators for six months after leaving office, in response to a bribery scandal that has rocked the EU.
Parliamentary sources said the plan was agreed by senior MEPs on Monday as part of the legislature's bid to clamp down on possible corruption.
The move comes as the parliament grapples with the fallout from the scandal involving the alleged bribery of members said to have been paid to push the interests of Qatar and Morocco.
Central to the sprawling criminal case is former Italian MEP Antonio Panzeri, who has admitted playing a key role in funnelling cash to parliamentarians.
Under the proposals -- expected to be finalised by April -- former MEPs would be barred from lobbying in parliament for a period of six months after their mandate ends.
Ex-lawmakers who wanted to conduct lobbying activities would then lose the automatic right to a pass to access the parliament granted to former lawmakers.
They would have to apply for a specific pass after putting their names in the parliament's transparency register.
German MEP Daniel Freund said the new rules would not prohibit former MEPs taking lobbying jobs in general.
But they would, he said, "make access to the parliament more difficult during a transitional period when the risk of conflicts of interest is greatest".
The scandal, popularly known as "Qatargate", erupted in December when Belgian police raided addresses in Brussels, detaining a lawmaker and uncovering over 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) in cash.
The parliament has already vowed a raft of reforms to clamp down on foreign influence.
Qatar and Morocco deny involvement in the scandal.