As many of you know, still in February we are grappling with the fact that Eva Kaili, a former VP of Parliament, allegedly took bags of cash to work for Qatar.
For me, the vote on a new Vice-President was no ordinary vote. This could have been a strong signal that we understand how serious this all is and that we want to win back trust! This Vice-Presidency could embody our ambition to change, to reform, and to respond to the ethics and transparency demands that have been voiced by so many Europeans across the continent. Trust can only be won with credible and meaningful reform!
Sadly, it does not seem to go this way. The candidate that emerged is a social democrat, like Eva Kaili, and was backed because of a backroom deal from way before the scandal. While being very nice and likely knowledgeable on his topics, the candidate has neither background in internal reform work, nor has he so far voiced a credible transparency campaign to vow for change.
This is a mistake. The Social Democrats could have excused themselves and focused on internal reform. The candidate for VP should have emerged as the most knowledgeable and credible to promote reform across all groups. Instead, we get business as usual. Truly a missed opportunity.
I will nevertheless push for changes within this house to win back trust. From my perspective, there are 3 important steps to get this done:
01 Unveil all opaque decision-making bodies! Change is not only needed in our rules, but also in the way we take decisions. Almost nobody knows that most improvements to our house are stalled in either the Bureau of Parliament (where Kaili sat), a body of the Political party leaders (the “Conference of Presidents”) or, even worse, the “Rules of Procedure Working Group” that really nobody ever heard of. None of these bodies have public agendas or minutes, all of them function without oversight, and many don’t even have a voting record, to understand who was blocking. The lack of transparency within these bodies is astounding.
02 Identify the best-practices for transparency rules! We should scan all (EU) Parliaments, and identify best practices. Many ideas are already out there:
All lobby meetings should be registered, if someone meets a whistleblower or confidential sources, a body of Members could allow for a blackening of that meeting;
All lobbyists should be registered, and cooling off periods should make sure someone can’t be registered as a lobbyist for at least sometime after leaving Parliament;
Reporting on expenses and official trips should be obligatory without exemption. For staff and administration officials, similar rules should apply.
03 Job nomination rules need to be implemented! Parliament suffers from political appointments in its administration. The pool for appointments in medium and high positions should follow very strict guidelines, to ensure that the administration owes no political favors to any specific party or group of people. Only like that can the quality and independence of the institution be safeguarded. Only like that can trust be won back.
I will continue to push for these changes. I hope the house will take them up to win back the trust that we lost because of the scandal.