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 Image of Spinwatch Sun Jul 27, 2008 
Are MEPs too close to business, asks new report

Europe’s leaders are sleepwalking into the issue of MEP’s links with commercial interests, warns a new report launched today by SpinWatch.

The report, Too Close for Comfort? investigates potential conflicts of interest of some MEPs, including:

* MEPs who accept paid work and hospitality from businesses with a vested interest in their legislative work

* MEPs with a financial interest in industries they promote

* MEPs who are in key legislative positions – for example, chairing parliamentary committees – while at the same time being involved with powerful business lobby groups.

The report argues that these potential conflicts of interest demand the attention of Europe’s leaders, more so than the recent scandals involving MEP’s expenses.

Too Close for Comfort? profiles 12 MEPs from the UK, Germany, France, Finland and Romania. Their activities are seen as illustrative of these potential conflicts of interest but are not deemed extraordinary.

They include:

* John Purvis MEP, whose financial interests include being a partner in a firm that invests in the biotechnology sector, and at the same time has been seen as a leading advocate of biotech in the European Parliament.

* Klaus-Heiner Lehne MEP, who sits on Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee and has been involved in European patent legislation while retaining his position as a Partner at a law firm that advises clients on patents.

* Giles Chichester MEP, who was Chair of the parliamentary committee with responsibility for key nuclear issues at the same time as he was President of a pro-nuclear industry lobby group.

* Eija-Riitta Korhola, a vocal pro-nuclear MEP, whose euro-election campaign accepted money from a company with nuclear interests.

Too Close for Comfort? forms part of the ongoing debate in Brussels on lobbying and transparency. It prompts urgent questions about current parliamentary rules governing MEP’s outside interests, and asks if changes are needed to these rules to restore public trust in Europe’s leaders.

Download it here.

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