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EU parliament president shocked at 'hotbed of harassment' claims

More than a dozen women spoke to the Sunday Times this week and accused politicians of harassment.

The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani
Image: Depo Photos/ABACA via PA Images

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT president has said he is “shocked” by allegations of sexual harassment at the parliament following a report about abuse of female staff in the Sunday Times last weekend.

More than a dozen women spoke to the Sunday Times and accused politicians of groping, stalking and harassment.

One assistant said that an MEP “stalked her” in meetings and made repeated advances towards her.

The assistant said that the parliament is “an absolute hotbed of harassment” and that MEPs are “not accountable to anyone”.

Another woman said that one of the parliament’s senior figures entered a lift with her alone and started touching her and whispering in her ear.

“He was stroking my hair, then my neck, going down my back… I just froze, I was petrified,” the woman told the Sunday Times.

The names of the perpetrators have been withheld from the media reports.

In light of the allegations, president Antonio Tajani said that it was a “shock and indignation” to have learned of recent allegations of sexual harassment at the European Parliament.

However, shock alone cannot be the answer.

In a statement today, the European Parliament said that it has had an advisory committee of MEPs dealing with harassment complaints between assistants and members since the beginning of this legislature.

The committee does not deal with sexual harassment exclusively but with all forms of harassment in the workplace. To date, it has not received any formal complaints about sexual harassment.

The statement said that the advisory committee rolled out a more “proactive” and “preventive campaign” which is still in place.

Through the campaign, posters are in place around the parliament’s buildings and a leaflet has been sent around to inform MEPs about “how to avoid improper behaviour towards your staff”.

Despite this, Tajani said that he wants to see more awareness to be made about harassment issues.

“Though steps have already been taken a year ago to raise awareness of the existence of the harassment complaints committee, it’s necessary to further increase awareness of the facilities already in place,” Tajani said.

A leaflet for parliament assistants is currently being drafted.

“There are also training sessions for members as well as for assistants and there is an early support system in place, consisting of confidential counsellors,” the statement said.

The European Parliament staff are the latest to go public with accusations of sexual harassment after the Harvey Weinstein scandal began to unravel earlier this month.

Read: Weinstein’s former assistant claims he used to try to pull her into his bed

More: ‘I knew the story about Gwyneth’: Matt Damon and George Clooney have spoken about the Harvey Weinstein scandal

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