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Defending integrity against “malign interference”

. The EU Parliament has called for “effective monitoring and surveillance systems” to detect foreign interference in its activity.

The demand is made in a report adopted by MEPs. 

Attempts to interfere with democracy are a “widespread phenomenon that must be countered as vigorously as possible”, warn MEPs in their recommendations on the reform of European Parliament’s rules on transparency, integrity, accountability, and anti-corruption. 

Reiterating their “deep shock and condemnation of the allegations of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organization” by three MEPs, one former MEP, and one parliamentary assistant, they call for measures to strengthen EU institutions when targeted by foreign interference attempts. 

They point to the “numerous loopholes in Parliament’s integrity and transparency rules” and call for President Roberta Metsola’s idea to reform Parliament’s rules to be put into concrete action as soon as possible.

In a report adopted with 441 votes in favor, 70 against, and 71 abstentions, MEPs demand a rapid revision of the Members’ code of conduct, including effective sanctions. The Code should protect whistleblowers more effectively and strengthen rules on conflicts of interest, asset declarations, and disclosure of side income, as well as banning paid side work for entities covered by the Transparency Register.

Although the dialogue between interest group representatives and decision-makers remains a “vital part of European democracy”, inappropriate means of influencing, bribery and other criminal offenses are unacceptable, they stress.

MEPs note that countries such as “Qatar, Morocco, but also China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Serbia and Turkey have invested heavily in lobbying efforts in Brussels”. They underline that foreign interference “must not remain without consequences, ” calling for all legislative and non-legislative proposals on cooperation with state authorities attempting to interfere, including EU funding, to be suspended. Funds for civil society organisations and independent media as well as humanitarian assistance should be preserved.

The new EU ethics body should monitor that former MEPs comply with the six-month cooling-off period. Their access to the Parliament should be revoked if they lobby Parliament on behalf of high-risk countries. MEPs also regret that the Commission has taken so long to present its proposal and lacks ambition for the establishment of an independent EU ethics body.

European Parliament President Metsola said: “The reform proposals adopted today will offer long-term solutions to help reinforce our capacity to prevent external actors from interfering with our work. They will form our line of defense against autocratic third countries trying to subdue European decision-making and they will help us to protect our open and free societies. They will complement all the immediate measures already put in place to increase integrity.”

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