N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
In the wake of the Qatargate scandal, France wants an EU corruption watchdog with teeth, Politico wrote, a watchdog with real powers to check officials income. France’s President Emmanuel Macron is obviously not content with the proposal of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a kind of ethics body without real power.
Macron wants an independent authority, with real means of control to prevent new scandals. The fear in Paris is that the Commission is turning a blind eye to the growing distrust and resentment among Europeans about corruption in the EU institutions, which EU-critical parties are gladly capitalising on. Politico revealed this year that several commissioners went on sponsored trips, a senior official accepted free flights from Quatar Airways while his team was negotiating an aviation deal with Quatar and another official ‘forgot’ to declare his ownership of a luxury hotel in Bali.
Despite numerous scandals, the unwillingness of the Commission is clear. Its excuse is that an independent watchdog would require treaty change and proposed an ethics body, which would be, according to Politico, a talking shop for the institutions to harmonise their own internal rules. But Commission and also Parliament have repeatedly failed at enforcing their internal rules, even after the Qatargate scandal. In the Parliament, especially the European People’s Party (EPP), von der Leyen’s party, is against an independent watchdog. Numerous MEP’s are working for companies as lawyers or consultants, opening the door to conflicts of interest.
Macron is pushing other member states to endorse his plan for an independent watchdog. Now it is the right moment, with the European elections in sight.