‘MeToo’ movement stirs few changes in European Parliament’s political groups

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In 2018, parliament staff kicked off their own ‘MeToo’ movement to fight harassment, sexism, and abuse in the workplace. However, despite the increase in visibility, Euronews research shows that only one of seven political groups has reinforced internal protocols for the next term.

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An anonymous survey conducted by the MeTooEP campaign group in 2023 found that almost half of respondents – more than 550 parliament staff – said they had been subjected to psychological harassment at work – and around one in six people (15.5%) claimed to have been sexually harassed.  

The figures sit at odds with official findings at the institution, where only three MEPs in a chamber of 705 deputies were found guilty of harassing staff in the past five years: Luxembourg liberal Monica Semedo (sanctioned for a second time in 2023); Spanish socialist Mónica Silvana, and Spanish liberal José Ramón Bauzá.      

Sanctions included a fine and a temporary suspension of their activities in the EU institution.  

But what mechanisms do the political groups have in place to deal with harassment, bullying and abuse? Have they made reforms in preparation for the new session? Euronews asked the various political families.  

With just two days to go before the deadline set by the groups to form their final line-up, here’s an overview of their plans:

Most of the groups – EPP, S&D, Renew Europe, Greens/EFA, the Left, and ID – have their own system of confidential counsellors to deal with harassment complaints from all staff, including trainees.     

However, despite the various allegations of harassment in recent years, not all have implemented the same level of measures, and only the Greens/EFA has updated its internal procedures for the new mandate.     

“The ‘MeToo’ movement has not modified our policy, but it has certainly served to help its visibility,” the European People’s Party (EPP) told Euronews in an emailed statement, signalling that a similar scheme to one adopted by the Parliament itself is being followed.      

Although only three MEPs have been officially sanctioned by the European Parliament in five years, more cases have been reported by the EU media, some of which have been dealt with by political groups, while others have been quietly dismissed.   

Scandal number one. MEP Karolin Braunsberger-Reinhold (Germany/EPP) was barred from running in the 2024 European elections for her national party, the CDU, after being accused of sexual harassment by two members of her staff. She later said she had spoken to her staff and “expressed deep regret”.   

Scandal number two. The Left also expelled one of its members, the Greek Alexis Georgoulis, following allegations of rape by a former parliament employee. Georgoulis has insisted on his innocence and called the complaint a “false and insulting attack”.   

Scandal number three. Another case concerned German Green MEP Malte Gallée, who resigned in March 2024 after being accused of sexually harassing staff and interns.  

Gallée has denied any wrongdoing, and no further action was taken by the Greens in the Parliament, following which some MEPs wrote to the group leadership asking for clarification on how the case was managed internally – but to no avail.

The Greens/EFA is the only group in the parliament with its own internal procedure to fight against harassment and inappropriate behaviour, which has recently seen some changes.    

The left-wing group introduced new measures last November, including the creation of a special task force and an evaluation of internal procedures to be carried out by external and independent experts.    

But externalisation of the mechanism removes the chance for victims to recover any legal costs incurred in suing an alleged harasser in their home country covered by the Parliament. This can only happen when proceedings are opened by the EU institution, not the group.   

Meanwhile, the other six groups have not introduced any reforms for the coming parliamentary term – although Renew Europe, S&D, EPP and The Left are counting on mandatory anti-harassment training for all staff working for the group.     

“The Left will be more vigilant in ensuring that all people respect these values, putting the well-being of employees first,” a spokesperson told Euronews in a statement when asked about any additional changes to the group’s anti-harassment policy.     

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On the other hand, the centre-left S&D group introduced a set of internal rules in 2014, covering internal mechanisms for prevention, protection and sanctions, which were amended in 2019.     

“This year, the S&D secretariat is training its six confidential counsellors through an intensive 10-day training in preparation for the new mandate,” a spokesperson for the group said.     

Lastly, the group of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) did not respond to a request for information from Euronews, while Identity and Democracy (ID) did not provide further details on its internal mechanisms to combat harassment in the workplace.  

‘Things are changing,’ say campaigners

The Parliament has its own infrastructure and mediation service to handle harassment between MEPs and their assistants, which has been strengthened in recent years, a member of the Parliament’s press service told Euronews.   

Yet the Parliament’s staff remain unaware of the anti-harassment policy, the 2023 ‘MeToo’ survey shows.    

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Almost half of respondents (47.25%) had heard of the policy but were not sure what it was. 

“Things are changing,” the campaigner said. “People are not quiet anymore, they talk, and the exchange of information it’s much more fluid now and setting boundaries and saying ‘hey, no, this is not OK’”.   

By April 2024, the Parliament introduced new mandatory anti-harassment training for newly elected members, when around 45% of MEPs completed the course.     

“This will be very much important also in the next mandate to keep the awareness high,” a MeToo campaigner told Euronews of the training, which has already been scheduled for 30 sessions between now and December 2024.   

It consists of two modules: one on good office management and another on preventing conflict and harassment in the workplace – which every MEP must attend during their first six months in office – especially if they want to become legislative rapporteurs, vice-presidents or committee chairs.   

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In addition to the mandatory training for MEPs, the Parliament’s mediation service will extend its coverage to all staff.    

“We see a lot of things moving, and that’s good,” the campaigner said, adding that changes can still be made to the coming mandate as the parliamentary groups are still being formed.     

“Before, it was a bit like a stacked situation where people were told not to move. Now it’s a completely different environment,” she concluded, hoping that the European Parliament will continue to fight harassment, sexism and abuse over the next five years.  



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