Danuta Hübner On The Importance Of Following Rules For Elected Officials

Danuta Hübner: “All the rules are there, there are already sanctions planned”

The Polish EPP MEP is part of the advisory committee that scrutinizes the conduct of elected officials. For her, the framework exists, you just have to conform to it.

Danuta Hübner, EPP MEP, scrupulously fills out her travel declarations, except for the taxi fare. An example value, for the Polish elected official, who sits on the advisory committee on the code of conduct for elected officials. A question of principle, above all, hammers the former European commissioner.

So it’s Not That Complicated to Complete These Declarations?

I want to say that it is absolutely not tedious. All you have to do is inform your assistant of the travel program, which you generally receive in detail. It takes me a few seconds. For my assistant, it’s five minutes. It is therefore not “a lot of work”, it is neither tedious nor laborious. It is also a rule that exists in our interest.

What do You Mean ?

We are elected, we must be transparent towards the citizens. This rule helps us to be. But, regardless of this philosophical reasoning, I complete these statements because there are rules. And, once there are rules, they cannot be ignored.

Some Parliamentarians Believe That These Rules Cut a Little on Their Freedom of Mandate. Not You ?

It is true that some elected officials are very sensitive to issues of freedom and independence of office. But I remind you that these trips, offered by third parties, are not prohibited. We are free to respond to invitations. But we operate in an ecosystem of transparency, so we have to declare what we do. Ditto for conflicts of interest: you must complete a declaration of financial interests, which makes it possible to identify potential conflicts of interest. And, to avoid suspicion of influence, for example on the part of the people we meet, we must declare that too. But it is normal that we speak to the lobbies, to all the people who are impacted by our legislative work.

How Come So Many Parliamentarians Do Not Follow The Rules?

There must be 65% of newly elected members in this legislature. We should perhaps have made more aware of the rules that, I remind you, we all approved. But hey… I’ve been on the advisory board for years. Each time there is a legislative adaptation, elected officials receive an email with a link which should allow them to update the information on the rules… What do we see? That many of them do not update… Sometimes, we ask the presidents of Parliament to beat the recall, we had done it with Tajani and Sassoli. Much has already been done but it is not enough. We need more communication. We could also go through the political groups.

Do we Need New Rules?

We need to have a discussion on what we mean by freedom of mandate. For some deputies, we cannot touch anything, in the name of independence. Which is both defined but also subject to interpretation. The perception is different depending on the people. The travel ban could be seen as a restriction on the freedom of office. I think we are far from it, that nothing undermines the freedom of mandate for the moment. But it is a discussion that exists between political groups.

Should we at The Very Least sStrengthen The Existing Rules?

We have a very robust system for transparency! We have the code of conduct, which dates from 2013, the rules of procedure, the rules for staff, an intergroup against corruption, a commission on foreign interference, a transparency register, commission work open to the public. .. Without forgetting the penalties. You just have to follow the rules! But I don’t think we need new rules. On the contrary, all the rules are there.

And do we Need More Penalties?

The fact of announcing them in plenary, then publishing them on the site, makes them known to everyone. These are already serious reputational penalties. And we can already impose financial sanctions, by suspending the daily allowance, participation in certain activities, in particular representation of the European Parliament, or access to certain confidential documents. Seriously, I don’t know if we can do more.

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