Auteur: Nikolaj Nielsen
Efforts to ban side jobs for MEPs were scuppered on Thursday (28 April) when the European Parliament in a surprise move decided to axe any future vote on the issue.
MEPs voted to delete a paragraph calling for the ban as part of a much larger discharge report on how the EU parliament spent its money in 2014.
Second or third jobs for MEPs have raised thorny conflict of interest issues between their duties as public lawmakers and their gainful employment in the private sector, on which they legislate.
"We believe that most industries have MEPs who are employed in one way or another by those industries, and we believe this is a conflict of interest," Green Hungarian MEP Benedek Javor, who wanted the ban imposed, told this website.
A last minute demand by the centre-right EPP group, with the backing of European Parliament president Martin Schulz, put the paragraph up for a vote.
The procedure was highly unusual.
The demand to vote on the paragraph was made after Tuesday's deadline to submit such requests.
"It was approved by president Schulz personally, that's how it came to the voting list today, which I believe is completely unacceptable," said Javor.
Three hundred and seventy nine MEPs voted to cut the text from the report against 209. The others abstained.
The deleted paragraph had asked for "a clear ban on members holding additional jobs or other paid work".
The vote came amid a Socialist-led effort to also muffle criticism against Schulz over allegations he used parliament resources during his campaign to become the president of the European Commission.
The campaign was part of the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process.
Before taking up his duties as parliament chief, Schulz was the party leader of the Socialist group.
The Socialists had tabled around a dozen amendments. Most were later withdrawn but three amendments, backed by the EPP, sailed through.
The three erased the most tricky questions over the affair.
The original text had asked Schulz to provide additional information on whether he had chartered private flights in the first six months of the election year.
That part was cut.
Text was also cut that asked Schulz to provide detailed information from 2012 on how he "has kept his duties in office separate from his preparations to head the Socialists and Democrats' list in the European elections, in particular with regard to the staff in his cabinet and in Parliament's information offices and to travel expenses".
The last joint amendment cut broader criticism over Schulz’s use of converting the Twitter official account of the “President of the European Parliament” into a personal campaign vehicle.
Asked to comment, a spokesperson from the Socialist group said they "thought attacks on Schulz were a bit unfair".
The Socialists said the amendments also dealt with wider issues on the Spitzenkandidat process.
"There were a lot of things that weren't very clear with the [Spitzenkandidat] rules, so we felt there was too much criticism of Schulz," he said.
The president spokesperson, Armin Machmer, said Schulz had provided a detailed list of his travels and activities in full transparency, clearly differentiating parliament activities from campaign activities.
"In addition the president has voluntarily forfeited his daily parliament allowance during the election campaign," he said an email.
Machmer disputed the allegations about Schulz's Twitter account.
He said Schulz's personal account existed before his election as EP president.
"It was standard practice of those EP Presidents of the Twitter era to continue to use their established accounts," he said.
In addition to his personal account opened in 2008, Schulz has a second account, "@EP_President", opened in November 2013 before the last EU elections, which Machmer said "will be passed on to his successor".