April 18. 2024. 8:49

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Right wing bloc opposes EU Parliament’s mandatory anti-harassment training

The centre-right, conservative and far-right lawmakers oppose the introduction of mandatory anti-harassment training for members of the European Parliament (MEPs) at the start of their mandate, a German EU lawmaker involved in the process told Euractiv.

A vote on the report is due on 20 March, but German socialist MEP Gabriele Bischoff, a member of the Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee (AFCO) and nominated rapporteur for the procedure, said that last week, the right-wing members of AFCO disagreed with the idea of introducing the mandatory training.

The EPP member of the AFCO committee is the German Sven Simon, who told Euractiv that “what we are opposing is a procedure in contravention of the [European] Parliament’s rules”.

The German center-right representative did not provide detailed clarification on which specific part of the rule is being violated by the procedure of the report.

Following several cases leaked to the press of MEPs accused of physical and psychological harassment of the staff in recent years, the European Parliament initiated a reform to reinforce anti-harassment internal procedures.

In July 2023, the Parliament’s administrative body – the bureau – established a “mediation service” for such cases and endorsed the introduction of mandatory training for members.

EU lawmakers to overhaul internal rules on harassment complaints

MEPs are set to toughen their internal rules on harassment of their staff and parliamentary officials following a series of complaints that its existing regime discourages victims from coming forward with complaints.

The report was then brought to the AFCO committee, where it encountered resistance.

“It is simply incredible that the EPP (conservative European People’s Party) collaborates yet another time with far-right political groups. A close cooperation of the EPP, ID [Identity and Democracy] and ECR [European Conservatives and Reformists] attempted to kill the report,” Bischoff told Euractiv.

The same was confirmed to Euractiv by another source familiar with the matter.

According to the proposal, the training should happen within the first six months of MEP’s term in office.

“Having many cases of harassment in this legislature, we should do more to prevent [harassment in the European Parliament],” the socialist MEP said.

Recent cases

The European Parliament’s reputation was put at stake after different cases of MEPs harassing its staff were leaked to EU media.

Last March, the German media Bild reported, quoting an internal report, on allegations about the German EPP MEP Karolin Braunsberger-Reinhold, who was accused of sexually harassing two of her employees during a trip.

Asked by BILD about the accusations, Braunsberger-Reinhold said she had “expressed deep regret” to both employees.

Another sanction was imposed last spring on Spanish socialist MEP Mónica Silvana Gonzalez for psychological harassment of three assistants, including a one-month ban on her activities and the loss of her daily allowance of €338.

The Spanish MEP from the liberal group Renew Europe, José Ramón Bauzá was sanctioned with a reprimand on 28 February for psychologically harassing staff, the minimum consequence in such cases.

Before him, Luxembourgish MEP Monica Semedo from the same political family received a fine of €3,380 for misconduct towards her staff.

Another case was reported in the media in April 2023 when the Belgian authorities asked the European Parliament to lift the immunity of Greek MEP from the Left Alexis Georgoulis after a staff member of the European Commission who used to work for him filed a complaint.

On 1 March 2024, the German Green MEP Malte Gallée resigned due to an investigation into his behaviour dating back to 2022. The Bavarian MEP, however, denied any wrongdoing.

Different staff members, who asked to remain anonymous for their own safety, have criticised the internal anti-harassment procedure as slow and problematic, with one person saying it “brings lots of stress and uncertainties for the victims’ future”.

During the internal assessment procedures of the Parliament’s advisory body, victims are sent on leave or asked to change office until a decision is made.

In a resolution adopted on 25 April last year, the Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee assessed the internal procedure for dealing with harassment cases as inadequate.

MEPs denounce EU Parliament’s lack of protection for harassment victims

The European Parliament’s women’s rights committee found the Parliament’s internal procedures for dealing with cases of psychological and physical harassment to be inadequate, in a draft resolution adopted on Tuesday (25 April).

Read more with Euractiv

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