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European Parliament drafts long-awaited anti-harassment reforms – POLITICO

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STRASBOURG — The European Parliament is proposing an overhaul of its anti-harassment reforms at a closed-door meeting of top MEPs on Monday evening, amid fears that many cases in the institution are going under the radar because victims fear to manifest.

At a meeting of the powerful Bureau of 20 top MEPs, including President Roberta Metsola and her 14 vice-presidents, MEPs will chew through a list of reforms that have been concocted over seven months of talks. Already this year, two MEPs — Mónica Silvana González and Monica Semedo — have been sanctioned for psychological harassment of staff.

Above the deliberations looms a recent survey by an internal campaign group called MeTooEP, which found that of the 1,001 people surveyed, just under half (484 people) had experienced psychological harassment, 16% (159) had experienced sexual harassment and 7% (67) had experienced physical violence. The majority of respondents were public servants; Members’ assistants constituted the second largest group.

The last reform of the Parliament’s internal anti-harassment policy dates back to 2018, during the previous legislature. Since then there have been several calls across Parliament to improve the internal workings of the institution, the most recent being a report voted on by a majority of MPs on June 1. However, it is up to a select group of MEPs — not the plenary — to carry out internal reforms.

Several adjustments proposed by the so-called Quaestors – five MEPs responsible for administrative affairs – are now on the table, such as setting deadlines to speed up investigations into allegations of harassment, making management training compulsory for MPs , create an ‘amicable termination’ clause to help assistants leave Parliament more easily and set up an independent mediation service.

But according to more than half of the vice-presidents – who have a majority vote in the Bureau – these reforms may not be enough, given the scale of the problem.

Friday, eight vice-presidents of Parliament from the Socialist, Renew, Left and Green groups, sent Metsola a letter — obtained by POLITICO — demanding the changes go further. They want sanctions for MPs who fail to undergo anti-harassment training, a merger of the two advisory committees that investigate cases and audits of how parliament handles complaints.

They also want feedback from Secretary General Alessandro Chiocchetti on a number of points in October, including holding an awareness campaign in Parliament and training all staff against harassment.

A major sticking point has been the question of who sits on the advisory committee responsible for investigating complaints involving MPs. The reforms under discussion envisage only minor changes to its composition, but the Greens and other campaigners have called for independent legal and medical experts to be given voting rights alongside the three MEPs.

A separate committee which represents the 2,000 accredited parliamentary assistants has also written to the Office, in a letter seen by Playbook, asking MEPs to support all proposals. “We are convinced that the decisions you take will make Parliament a leading institution in the field of anti-harassment policy,” aides wrote via the committee.

Asked if MEPs will take a final decision on Monday, Parliament spokeswoman Delphine Colard said: “The impression is that it’s over but I can’t anticipate the Bureau’s decision.” The next scheduled meeting of the Bureau will take place after a long summer break, in September.

Barbara Moens contributed reporting.



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