Tarabella, Cozzolino’s parliamentary immunities officially lifted
The European Parliament voted to lift the immunities of Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella and Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino on Thursday, meaning both men can expect to stand before Belgian justice.
On Tuesday, the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) unanimously approved the reports recommending the waiver of both MEPs immunity, via a show of hands.
During the session, Tarabella was not sitting alongside his political group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D). The Belgian, as well as the Italian Cozzolino, recently became non-attached members of the EP. Whereas Cozzolino decided to self-exclude when the group asked him to do so, Tarabella refused and was finally excluded.
Tarabella, who has always been in favour of this waiver, saying he does not want to “hide behind it”, voted for his own immunity to be lifted.
After the vote, he told the journalists that, although he wanted to talk to the press, he decided not to “out of respect for the judicial process.”
“Obviously I recall that I am innocent in this case,” he added before reiterating that he would talk to justice before talking to the press.
Since the scandal broke, both men have claimed their innocence.
Once the decision is formally communicated to both MEPs and the competent Belgian authorities, the waiver, procedure which started in January, will be completed.
The waiver procedure normally takes months, but the Parliament moved quickly on both cases.
The charges against Tarabella and Cozzolino could result in their conviction for “public corruption”, “participation in a criminal organisation” and “money laundering”, L’Echo reported on Thursday.
MEP Manon Aubry (Left), who was the rapporteur on both reports, tweeted that she was happy about this decision, but that while “justice is moving forward”, “the political response remains at a standstill”. Once again, she called for drastic and immediate reforms to tackle corruption, accusing some to some to try to “sweep the dust under the carpet”.
In a press release, she argues that the “ambitious proposals of the resolution” adopted in December have been “trampled on” since European Parliament President Roberta Metsola’s action plan takes up only four of the fifteen measures adopted almost unanimously.
“Essential elements such as the acceleration of the establishment of an independent ethical authority, the creation of a special commission or the obligation to publish the origin of amendment proposals suggested by lobbies have “disappeared”. The measures that have been retained are minor advances that are far from being sufficient.”
The French argue that these measures imply “self-monitoring by MEPs”, rely on “deficient tools” such as the transparency register and the advisory committee on the code of conduct, and have “no implementation timeline.”
(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)