Parliament urged to act over potential case of conflict of interest

9 October 2012

Friends of the Earth Europe has today written to the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, to express concerns about potential conflicts of interest of MEPs.

The letter, sent together with Corporate Europe Observatory, LobbyControl and Spinwatch, refers to the Belgian MEP and former Prime Minister, Jean-Luc Dehaene's revision of his declaration of financial interests in which he added stock options worth more than €5.3 million in beer company AB Inbev.

The same four organisations already wrote to President Schulz in May this year to draw attention to potential conflicts of interest relating to Mr Dehaene. They welcome the fact that as a result he has updated his declaration, providing greater transparency. But, they question whether or not the actual risk of a conflict of interest is being tackled.

"This is a test case for President Schulz and the Bureau of the European Parliament, who are responsible for the implementation of the MEP code of conduct. Safeguards must be put in place to ensure that outside interests do not take priority over public interest," said Natacha Cingotti, transparency campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Holding stock options and being allowed to exert them, while sitting as a MEP, risks a potential conflict of interest, the groups say in the letter. They call on President Schulz and the Parliament authorities to guarantee that Mr Dehaene fully complies with his obligations, and safeguards are put in place to avoid a potential conflict of interest in this particular case.

Under a new code of conduct set up in January 2012, all MEPs must declare all their outside interests. This is meant to be the basis for proper checks of MEPs' outside interests and to help detect and avert any potential conflict of interest.

Friends of the Earth Europe has called on the European Parliament authorities to set up strict implementing rules to ensure that the code is interpreted strictly and MEPs comply with their new obligations. In the meantime we have started monitoring and alerting the European Parliament about cases, where we fear potential risks of conflicts of interest exist or could arise, and for which we think measures need to be taken to safeguard the public interest.