European Parliament calls in experts over sexual harassment | World

 The European Parliament called Thursday for a committee of outside experts to investigate sexual harassment. Photo:AFP file.

STRASBOURG, FRANCE: The European Parliament called Thursday for a committee of outside experts to investigate sexual harassment at the institution, as the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood continues to make waves at the EU.

The parliament’s procedures for dealing with allegations of unwanted sexual advances have come under scrutiny this week amid increasing talk of harassment within the EU, including so-far anonymous reports of rape and abuse of power among parliamentary staff.

MEPs passed a resolution calling on the parliament’s chief and administration to “urgently and thoroughly examine the recent media reports on sexual harassment and abuse in the European Parliament”.

They said the parliament should “set up a task force of independent experts… to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in parliament” and suggest any necessary changes to the existing complaints procedure.

The motion highlighted the vulnerable position of parliamentary assistants who are often young and could be reluctant to report incidents for fear of damaging their career prospects.

It said that “all too often” such assistants are afraid to speak out as a special “loss of trust” clause in their contracts means they can be sacked at very short notice.

A spokeswoman for the European Parliament has said that cases of rape and sexual harassment have been reported, and “sanctions and disciplinary measures” have been taken, but these did not involve MEPs or their assistants.

“In the European Parliament there is not more harassment than elsewhere, but nor is there less,” French socialist MEP Edouard Martin said.

The European Commission, the EU’s vast executive arm of roughly 32,000 employees, said on Wednesday it had received an average of one complaint a month about “inappropriate behaviour” from staff over the past five years.

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