Italian Chamber of Deputies passes ethics code

By on 09/05/2016
The Italian Chamber of Deputies

The Italian parliament’s lower house has passed an ethics code, closing a loophole under which members of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies were among the few parliamentarians in Europe not governed by any statutory code of conduct. But some opposition deputies abstained in the vote, complaining at the lack of a sanctions regime to enforce compliance.

The code, which came into force last month, comprises seven articles based on the principles of “publicity and transparency”. Deputies must now disclose full details of their financial assets and sources of funding from the date of their election, as well as any positions previously held in the public and private sectors. They must also inform the chamber’s president of any extra-parliamentary activities within one month, addressing and resolving any conflicts of interest that might influence their decision-making, and are barred from accepting gifts or benefits valued at more than 250 euros.

Compliance will be monitored by a ‘consultative committee on the conduct of deputies’, staffed by 10 deputies appointed by the president of the chamber. Appointments are to be weighted so that its membership reflects parties’ representation in the chamber. Any violations of the code will be made public on the parliamentary website and brought to the attention of the assembly.

The code was approved by a large majority in the chamber, but representatives of the opposition Five Star Movement abstained. “Making public the transgression is not enough,” commented Five Star Movement deputy Danino Toninelli, arguing for the introduction of a concrete sanctions regime.

Chamber president Laura Boldrini responded that the code is currently in a testing phase as an “experimental protocol”, and enforcement mechanisms can be added later. “The code needs to be tested. In case of positive effects, it will be included permanently in our Rules of Procedure. At that point it will be possible to implement it with additional and more severe sanctions,” she said.

The Chamber of Deputies was one of the few parliamentary houses in Europe lacking an ethics code, and has acted following pressure from the EU authorities. The text draws from the ‘Code of conduct for Members of the European Parliament with respect to financial interests and conflicts of interests’, and the chamber is now being monitored by GRECO – the Group of States against Corruption ¬– which will assess its compliance with European anti-corruption standards.

Italy’s Senate, which is regarded as the upper house, still lacks a formal code. But it is in the process of adopting one very similar to the chamber’s new rules: last June senators Orelana and Gambaro set out a draft code, and it is likely that the Senate will soon catch up with the Chamber of Deputies in putting it into law.

 

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About Giovanni Pigni

Giovanni Pigni is an Italian journalist based in Berlin, where he is studying an MA in communication and journalism. He also holds a BA in modern languages from the University of Pavia, and speaks Russian, English and Spanish as well as his native Italian

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