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EU Parliament Clamps Down on Corruption

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TEHRAN, March 31 (ICANA) – The head of the scandal-hit European Parliament has moved to clamp down on MEPs as detectives probe bribery and expenses fraud allegations.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 2:16:59 PM
EU Parliament Clamps Down on Corruption

"There should be zero tolerance for any form of corruption," parliament president Jerzy Buzek said of a submission, seen by AFP, to be put to party leaders as guards block the sealed offices of disgraced MEPs.

Uproar has hit the 736-seat parliament over a "cash for laws" scandal involving European business interests in the last weeks, now turned further poisonous over separate reports of massive fraud.

Hella Ranner, a 59-year-old Austrian conservative, became the latest to quit her seat this week amid allegations she planned to repay a seven-million-euro ($9.8-million) business debt using expenses reserved for office running costs.

A trio of lawmakers from Austria, Romania and Slovenia are already facing probes after a sting by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper showed them agreeing to take bribes of up to 100,000 euros ($140,000).

The cases came little over a week after English Conservative ex-MEP Den Dover was ordered by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to repay some 400,000 euros -- in a judgment actually reduced on appeal.

Buzek wants to introduce a "mandatory register of lobbyists."

The EU's executive commission would therefore be invited to table proposed legislation.

In the interim, Buzek wants to establish a "de facto mandatory register of our own," requiring some 5,000 accredited lobbyists to "register on a daily basis." Some 10,000 people are said to pass through parliament buildings in Brussels every working day.

In a key departure, he warned that "any actual or potential conflict of interest must be declared."

Criticism by anti-corruption campaigners has been growing over members holding powerful outside positions, for example German MEP Elmar Brok who is also an adviser to media giant Bertelsmann.

"Members who advocate any cause or interest in which they have a direct financial interest (or an anticipated interest) must make this fact known clearly and unequivocally in writing," said Buzek, a former Polish prime minister.

He said members with "second jobs... should be required to update their existing declaration of interests much more regularly than once a year - ideally within a maximum of one month of any change in their circumstances."

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