Dear friends and colleagues,
The EU Commission has promised to update and strengthen the legal base of the EU lobby register. Commission President Juncker made more transparency one of his priorities. In order to outline what the European Parliament wants, the Constitutional Affairs committee had asked me to draft an initiative report on “transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU-institutions”. We now submitted this report. Please find the report here: https://sven-giegold.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/giegold_draft-report_transparency_accountability_integrity_nov_2015.pdf
15.000 lobbyists have significant influence on decision makers in Brussels, more than in Washington D.C.. Citizens’ trust in EU-institutions is near the historical low. We have to visibly separate economic from political power to win back citizens’ trust. All 48 proposals in my report aim to refresh the promise of the treaties that all citizens are equal before the EU institutions. We propose to make the EU lobby register mandatory, to protect the integrity of MEPs, Commissioners and staff against conflicts of interest by independent oversight and to fully realise transparency and access to information.
EU institutions are more transparent, accountable and cleaner than most other political institutions on national or regional level in Europe. But local and national politics are less distant to citizens due to more media coverage, more personal contacts and less language barriers. EU politics feel like less influence for many citizens and more influence for professional lobbyists. To narrow this perceived distance to the European level, this report calls for a three-fold approach: EU institutions have to enhance transparency, accountability and integrity and set the highest standards possible in these areas. Our Green objective remains: Building a European Democracy – strong, clean and open to direct participation of citizens.
The constitutional affairs committee has the draft report on its agenda for the 3rd of December. Amendments to the text are probably possible until the end of January. Vote in committee could follow 2 month later in March. Vote in plenary rather in April or May 2016. 182 MEPs signed a pledge by Transparency International and committed to legislative footprints themselves when drafting EU laws. 180 signed the pledge “politics for people” by the “ALTER-EU coalition” with similar demands. Yet other MEPs argue with the independence of their mandate against any further restrictions. Once the other political groups have decided their positions we might need a lot of public support for many of our demands.
With Green European greetings
10 KEY DEMANDS OF OUR REPORT
A legislative footprint to protecting integrity in drafting EU laws
European Commission, Parliament and Council should record and disclose all input received from lobbyists/interest representatives on draft policies, laws and amendments as a ‘legislative footprint’. This legislative footprint is should be online and show a potential imbalance while the drafting is ongoing. Such an imbalance can then be corrected before decisions are taken.
Making the EU lobby register mandatory and its data meaningful
The initiative taken by the EU Commission a year ago only to meet registered lobbyists and report publicly about their meetings should be extended. Inside Commission this should be binding for all staff involved in EU legislation. For Parliament at least all MEPs with special roles in EU legislation such as rapporteurs and shadows drafting EU laws and committee chairs should follow the same rules or otherwise lose their special office. Additionally, entrance controls in the EP can also check who are lobbyists and only let in registered ones. Once these reforms are functional we have to close the remaining loopholes with a legal act in addition to the inter-institutional agreement that should be updated first.
Transparency International has found thousands of entries in the lobby register that are illogical at first sight just a short time ago. Such bad quality of data is unacceptable. We want more staff for the secretariat so that they can check proactively 5 percent of all entries per year. Updates on lobby campaign spending should be done each month. Only by this way citizens can see who spends how much.
Independent oversight against conflicts of interest
So far conflicts of interest by members of the Parliament are judged by President Schulz. Five MEPs from the biggest groups in an Advisory Committee give recommendations to Schulz. When they recommended sanctions Schulz ignored them so far in all cases. Instead we suggest to complement the five MEPs with more external experts. Decisions should be taken by this Committee instead of the President. The Committee and its secretariat should also pro-actively check samples of MEPs’ declarations of financial interest. Additionally, the control of the financing of EU political parties should be handed over from Parliament to a neutral body that does not consist nearly exclusively of members of the very same political parties.
Cooling off periods to close the revolving door
Many Commissioners, MEPs and staff take up lobby jobs after their role in the EU institutions carrying with them special knowledge and raising questions how much they acted in the institutions already to please their later employers. To close this so called revolving door Commissioners and MEPs should have to wait three years before taking jobs in any lobby. For MEPs and staff this should be binding in the field of their former competence. For staff this cooling off period should be two years.
Balanced composition of expert groups
So far many of the members in expert groups supporting the Commission in drafting details of EU laws have conflicts of interest since they also work for the industries which are affected by these laws. We want to avoid such conflicts of interest. All experts must publish comprehensive CVs allowing to check for such conflicts. The appointments of people with close ties to industries as “experts in their personal capacity” must be ended.
Fully realising access to documents
How should one ask for documents you do not even know they exist? A list of all available documents as it exists already for the Parliament should be available equally for Commission and Council. Council, ECB, Court of Justice, Europol and Eurojust have to be added to regulation 1049/2001 about access to documents where they are missing so far. Finally, non-EU actors, who receive EU money, should be as accountable as EU institutions would be themselves when spending the money.
Transparency in EU legislation
On more than 80 percent of EU laws the final deal is done in informal meetings between the institutions. These so called trialogues involve the key players from European Parliament, Council and Commission. But so far no minutes or any other documents are publicly available before the law is agreed. We suggest: European Parliament Committee chairs should publish minutes and all documents used in trialogues proactively. Additionally, citizens have a right to know which political positions member states take. Therefore, preparatory meetings within the Council should be as public as Committee meetings of the European Parliament.
Transparency in trade negotiations such as TTIP
3.2 million Europeans signed to stop the TTIP and CETA trade deals. The lack of transparency has contributed to this distrust. To win back trust of citizens the Commission should publish the negotiation mandates, all negotiating positions, all requests and offers and all consolidated draft negotiation texts prior to each negotiation round. This would allow the European and national parliaments, as well as NGOs and the wider public, to make recommendations on them before the negotiations are closed for comments and the agreement goes to ratification.
Transparency and accountability of economic governance in the Eurozone
The finance ministers of the Eurogroup have taken many fundamental decisions during the Eurozone crisis without citizens and parliaments having the full picture who defended what position. Such secrecy destroys democratic accountability. We say, decisions taken or prepared in the Eurogroup, in the Economic and Financial Committee, “informal” EcoFin meetings and Euro summits have to become transparent and accountable including through the publication of minutes.
Guaranteeing whistleblower protection and punish those guilty of corruption
Corruption costs us 120 billion Euro all across the EU. Effective whistleblower protection could be a key weapon against corruption. Commission has to end its strike against preparing a whistleblower protection directive. This should include minimum standards of protection all over Europe. When corruption is proven, sanctions have to follow: Those politicians found guilty of corruption against the EU’s financial interest or within member states may not run for office in the next two terms of the European Parliament. Those persons or companies led or owned by such persons who are found guilty of corruption in the EU should not be allowed to enter into procurement contracts with the European Union or be allowed to profit from EU funds for two years.