Italian aims to ban ex-criminals from EU parliament


AN ITALIAN activist is gaining traction in his campaign to ban people with convictions for any crime from the European Parliament, a measure which would prevent French far-right chief Jean-Marie le Pen and British leader Nick Griffin from becoming MEPs.

Angered by the failure of the Italian authorities to take steps to close the national parliament to criminal offenders, Andrea D’Ambra is gradually gaining support for his three-year effort to exclude them from the European assembly.

His campaign is inspired by the efforts of one of Italy’s best-known bloggers, Beppe Grillo, to drum up public support for an similar initiative in the Italian parliament. “He’s a friend of mine,” Mr D’Ambra said of Mr Grillo.

He is particularly concerned that two Italian MEPs from the People of Freedom (PDL) party of Silvio Berlusconi have convictions for bribery while another, from the Northern League party, has a conviction for arson.

Four MEPs have now sought signatures from their colleagues for a written declaration on a “clean parliament”, which says “candidates for European elections must not have been convicted of corruption, abuse of public office, incitement to racism or crimes relating to involvement with Mafia groups, organised crime or terrorism”.

In addition, Belgium’s rotating presidency of the EU has pledged in private correspondence with Mr D’Ambra to ensure the council of EU governments examines any proposal to change the 1976 law governing European elections.

Supporters of Mr D’Ambra, who recently graduated in political science from Federico II University in Naples, have sent hundreds of copies of an e-mail he drafted to members of petitions and constitutional committees of the European Parliament.

The e-mail asks MEPs to ban offenders from campaigning for election to the parliament as part of a forthcoming revision to the minimum age rules for voters and candidates.

The e-mail draws attention to the presence in the parliament of Mr le Pen, convicted for making dismissive remarks about the crimes of the Nazi regime, and Mr Griffin, convicted for publishing hate-mail.

It points to the conviction in the early 1990s of PDL MEP Aldo Patriciello for paying the equivalent of €8,000 to a politician and notes that fellow PDL MEP Vito Bonsignore received a “definitive” two-year sentence for his part in a hospital contract scam in Asti to divide a €1.5 million bribe between the Christian Democrat and Socialist parties.

The e-mail also notes that Northern League MEP Vito Bonsignore has a conviction for setting fire to the belongings of some immigrants sleeping under a bridge in Turin during a vigilante raid.

The written declaration in the parliament is co-sponsored by a French-Norwegian anti-corruption campaigner Eva Joly, who is a Green MEP, as well as Italian liberal MEP Sonia Alfano and Italian Socialist MEPs Rosario Crocetta and Rita Borsellino.

The declaration holds that the legislative duties of the parliament “should not be carried out by people who have been convicted, even in first instance and even where the sentence does not include exclusion from public office”. If it is signed by a simple majority of the parliament’s 736 MEPs, it would be read into the record. Such declarations are not binding, but it would send a powerful signal as only the parliament can take the initiative to amend the 1976 Act.