By Eleonora Vasques
(EurActiv) — The European Parliament has initiated an investigation into allegations of misconduct by Spanish MEP Antonio López-Istúriz White of the European People’s Party (EPP), an internal document and a source from the European Parliament confirmed to Euractiv.
López-Istúriz White, who served as the secretary general of the EPP for two decades, is accused of breaching European Parliament rules and proceedings regarding inappropriate behaviour and hate speech during a plenary session in December.
The MEP is accused of having insulted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, MEPs from the centre and the left groups, the president of the socialist group (S&D) Iratxe García Pérez, and civil servants, a source from the European Parliament told Euractiv.
The comments came as Sánchez was entering the hemicycle. Euractiv understands that there are no public recordings of the incident, and neither has anyone involved issued a public reaction.
“The European Parliament does not comment on specific incidents,” European Parliament press services told Euractiv, however, they confirmed that “there was a complaint from 13 December on the use of inappropriate language”.
On 10 January, the European Parliament Conference of Presidents, the internal body where presidents of groups gather with the president of the European Parliament), “briefly discussed conduct in Parliamentary debates in general in the run up to the elections and all agreed that in spite of political differences, there should be respect for one another,” the European Parliament press services told Euractiv.
The investigation will not be conducted on the EPP group as a whole, but on the specific member implied, the source told Euractiv, specifying that European Parliament Metsola will talk with the person involved on the matter.
In December, Sanchéz was invited by the European Parliament to hold a debate with members to mark the end of the six-month Spanish presidency of the Council of the EU.
It is a common practice at the European Parliament for heads of state to be invited to debate with members at plenary sessions.
At the most recent session in mid-January, the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo attended a debate with MEPs and presented the priorities of the Belgian presidency, which started at the beginning of the new year.
“Defamatory language, ‘hate speech’ and incitement to discrimination based, […] would ordinarily constitute cases of ‘offensive language’ within the meaning of this Rule,” the standard of conduct rules write.
If accusations are confirmed, López-Istúriz White would risk a penalty, which would be decided on by the European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
According to Rule 176 on penalties, the member risks a reprimand (public formal expression of disapproval), the prohibition of representing the European Parliament in some formal occasions for a year, the “forfeiture of entitlement to the daily subsistence allowance for a period of between two and sixty days”, and “temporary suspension from participation in all or some of the activities of Parliament for a period of between two and sixty days”.