Former MEPs will have to wait six months after their term ends before they can become lobbyists in Brussels under a new rule the European Parliament’s vice presidents finally agreed on Monday, March 13th, as part of the anti-corruption measures proposed to the EP last month.
The policy was accepted after a lengthy debate between EP President Roberta Metsola and her 14 vice presidents, a format known as the bureau, which usually meets behind closed doors to decide on the parliament’s internal rules. In the final version, set to be implemented in May, ex-MEPs will be barred from becoming lobbyists for half a year after ending their terms.
Furthermore, if they chose to join Brussel’s corporate world after the cooldown period ends, they will have to register on the EU’s transparency log and apply for a visitor badge each time they want to enter the parliament buildings.
Addressing the EP’s revolving door issue, at last, is one of the direct consequences of the wider Qatargate corruption scandal that has been haunting the parliament’s corridors for the past four months. As it happens, one of the central figures in the story is not even a member of parliament anymore, but his influence was a key component in Doha’s strategy to get Brussels to do its bidding.
The former S&D MEP Pier Antoni Panzeri gave back his mandate in 2019 but founded the human rights lobby “Fight Impunity” immediately after, which served as his base of operations in the parliament as well as the center of his NGO network, meant to launder the steady streams of bribe money coming from Qatar and Morocco.
But while Panzeri’s case made it clear that something has to be done in terms of ex-MEPs using their connections to influence EU politics even after they are not officially part of it, negotiating the details was not an easy process.
According to sources close to Politico, a coalition of Socialists, Greens, and the Left pushed for a longer cooling-off period, some up to two years, but were narrowly outvoted by Renew and the EPP. During the vote, there were “people who wanted longer, and people who wanted less, frankly. So, six months was basically the landing zone,” an unnamed parliamentarian who was present at the meeting said.
Loopholes remain, of course, to complicate the issue. One such problem is that there is no way to prevent ex-MEPs from engaging in lobbying activities at informal events all over Brussels; the reform can only bar them from entering the Parliament itself, not the bars and restaurants where MEPs congregate after hours.
Nonetheless, the legislation will move forward after details are debated in parliament and the final formal decision is adopted at the next bureau meeting. After that, we can expect even more talk about tightening the rules and reforming the conditions under which one can enter EU institutions.