Two EU lawmakers quit over money-for-influence report

City A.M. Reporter
A second member of the European Parliament has resigned over a newspaper expose that linked him to an influence-peddling scandal.

Former Slovenian foreign minister Zoran Thaler is the second Brussels-based parliamentarian to resign in as many days after it emerged they had dealings with undercover reporters posing as lobbyists who offered them cash to lobby for the changes to EU laws.

Thaler said he was approached in November and December to put forward amendments to a law by an undercover journalist for Britain's Sunday Times posing as a lobbyist.

He said he was not involved in illegal activity and received no money, but was resigning while an investigation was conducted.

"My resignation should enable an investigation of all facts and circumstances of this attempt to compromise my name without any pressure. I would like the truth to come out," Thaler said in a statement.

An Austrian member of the European Parliament, Ernst Strasser, stepped down on Sunday after admitting to accepting a similar offer. He said he had suspected a hoax and also maintained that no money had changed hands.

A third parliamentarian, the former Romanian deputy prime minister Adrian Severin, also featured in the Sunday Times report, which said he had agreed to put forward amendments to laws. Severin could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Monday, Austrian lawmaker Strasser told a radio station: "I ... tried to do what anyone would do when exposing a company: put evidence on the table and then hand it over to the police ... Unfortunately I did not get around to this."

He was quoted on Monday as telling the Austrian newspaper Oesterreich: "During this conversation in Brussels I simply wanted to find out who was behind it ...

"An image emerged that could have damaged my party (the Austrian People's Party)," he said in an interview.

Many of the European Parliament's members keep close ties or employment with industry during their five-year stint as legislators, a practice that is coming under scrutiny for possible conflict of interest.

In the secretly videotaped exchange with the Sunday Times journalist, Strasser says his commercial clients pay him €100,000 (£87,300) a year. He says he has five clients and is going after a sixth.