Sven Giegold
Mitglied der Grünen/EFA-Fraktion im Europaparlament

Sprecher Europagruppe Grüne

European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee wants big steps towards more transparency and integrity in EU institutions

The European Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee has today adopted the report on “Transparency, Accountability and Integrity in the EU Institutions” with a very big majority. The report has been ready to be voted on since September 2016, but Conservatives, Social Democrats and Liberals blocked the vote. Many of the particularly controversial rules for MEPs were subsequently decided in the Corbett report on the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. The final vote in the Parliament’s plenary is expected in the weeks to come.

 

Sven Giegold, rapporteur on transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions, comments on today’s decision:

“Today’s vote calls for major steps towards greater transparency and integrity in the EU institutions, something that would help improve the public’s regard for EU institutions. Such measures were completely lacking in Juncker’s White Paper, so it has fallen to the European Parliament to deliver. After the scandals surrounding Jose Manuel Barroso and Neelie Kroes, there must be a genuine reform of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners. Former Commissioners should take a break of at least three years before they can become lobbyists, and there must be independent and rigorous examination of their new jobs at the end of their mandate.

“Under the proposals approved today, all payments to lobby organisations above 3,000 euros must be transparent. Citizens have a right to know who is paying who in the murky world of Brussels lobbying. However, MEPs need to be more ambitious in keeping their own house clean. While MEPs called on the European Commission to ensure that all policy-makers have to disclose their meetings with lobbyists, they don’t want to apply this rule to themselves. Until the Parliament is prepared to make the same demands on itself as it asks of the Commission, it will not be taken seriously in negotiations.”

 

Background

The Giegold report on “Transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions” will be voted in plenary in a few weeks. It provides a framework for the position of the Parliament on a transparency register for lobbyists. Representatives of all political groups are working on a mandate for the negotiations on a revision of the “Interinstitutional Agreement” between the Parliament, the Commission and, in the future, the Council. The EU Transparency Register is to be equipped with significantly more resources so that the data on lobbyists are up-to-date and complete. The report stipulates that the documents of the trialogue between the Parliament, the Commission and the Council will finally be made public. Access to documents should not only apply to the major EU institutions but also to other EU institutions such as the ECB and the European Court of Justice. This is intended to strengthen the democratic control of all key institutions.

 

Green Plan for Transparency and Integrity: https://sven-giegold.de/2016/green-plan-for-transparency-and-integrity-in-the-european-parliament/

 

Results of the plenary vote on Corbett: www.sven-giegold.de/2016/rules-of-procedure-eu-parliament-strengthens-its-efficiency-and-transparency-but-fails-to-toughen-integrity-rules/

 

BACKGROUND: Won and lost in the Constitutional Affairs Committee

 

ADOPTED

 

Strengthening lobby transparency and integrity

 

The Council and the member states permanent representations should only meet registered lobbyists. (COMP IV – Paragraph 1 c)

 

Extend lobby transparency rules in Commission to all political staff. Not only Commissioners and Directors General should exclusively meeting registered lobbyists and report about them publicly. (compromise X, Paragraph 2)

 

Unregistered lobbyists should be excluded from events in all EU institutions as speakers, guests on premises, or experts in advisory bodies. (COMP XIII – Paragraph 2 c)

 

All information on interest representation towards the EU institutions should be accessible through a one stop shop. This should include declarations of interest, conflicts of interest and expert groups. (COMP XIV – Paragraph 3)

 

Lobby organisations should publish all donors to their budgets giving more than 3 000 EUR. Donations above EUR 12 000 should be reported immediately. (COMP XVIII Paragraph 6a)

 

Lobbyists should be sanctioned if they boycott Parliamentary hearings or provide insufficient or misleading information during such hearings. (COMP XXII – Paragraph 10)

 

Lobbying lawyers may not profit from professional secrecy rules but have to disclose all clients when acting in the scope of the Transparency Register. (COMP XXIII – Paragraph 10 a, COMP XXIV – Paragraph 11, COMP XXV- Paragraph 11 a)

 

The Transparency Register secretariat should have substantially more resources to ensure information that registrants provide is meaningful, accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive. (COMP XXVIII- Paragraph 13)

 

The Council should join the Transparency Register, including its preparatory bodies. Member states should introduce lobby transparency rules at least when influencing EU legislation. (COMP XX – Paragraph 8)

 

Closing the revolving door between the EU commission and lobby jobs

 

Former Commissioners should have to wait at least 3 years (instead of 1.5 years) until allowed to become lobbyist. (COMP XLV – Paragraph 22)

 

Those who judge if former Commissioners new jobs fit the rules should be appointed independently of those affected, instead of the present ad hoc Committee handpicked by Commission. (COMP XLVI – Paragraph 22 a)

 

An 18 months cooling-off period should be considered also for external and ad hoc members to the Regulatory Scrutiny Board in the context of better lawmaking and for members of the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank. (COMP XLVIII – Paragraph 22 c)

 

Strengthening integrity in the Commission

 

Rights and duties of Commissioners should be regulated in an EU law decided in usual procedure by Parliament and Council. This should replace the present self-regulation of Commission with a lack of Parliament’s oversight. (COMP LV – Paragraph 26 a)

 

Open government: better access to documents, more transparency in Council

 

Commission should publish all minutes of expert group meetings including the differences of opinions. Expert groups should lose their veto on this. (COMP LII – Paragraph 24 a)

 

Access to documents should become easier for European Council, the European Central Bank, the Court of Justice and all the EU bodies and agencies by applying Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 also to them. (COMP LVII – Paragraph 27)

 

Trilogue documents should be as publicly available on Parliament’s website like other legislative documents. This applies to agendas, summaries of outcomes, minutes and general approaches in the Council. (COMP LVII – Paragraph 27)

 

The Council should publish documents, especially minutes of the meetings of Council working groups clarifying the position of individual member states. (COMP LVII – Paragraph 27)

 

If EU documents really need to be secret this should be checked by an independent authority for classification and declassification of documents. (COMP LVII – Paragraph 27)

 

Publish all documents from Parliament’s agenda setting bodies: Committee Coordinators, Bureau and Conference of Presidents. (COMP LVII – Paragraph 27)

 

Documents on trade negotiations should be as public as the European Ombudsman recommended, including lobby meetings, draft agendas for meetings, final agendas and reports after negotiations. (COMP LXI – Paragraph 38)

 

Strengething transparency and accountability in trade negotiations

 

Key trade policy documents should be easier available to Parliament. This should include scoping, mandates and evolution of negotiations (COMP LX – Paragraph 37 a)

 

Parliament should more decide on mandates for international negotiations in advance of international negotiations instead of simply implementing what has already been decided internationally. To this end, Commission should establish guidelines regarding the adoption and coherence of European positions in the run-up to major international negotiations. Commission should draft and follow a code of conduct on transparency, integrity and accountability, when acting in international organisations and bodies bodies (COMP LXV – Paragraph 41 a)

 

Code of ethics for all EU bodies

 

The Council and other EU institutions or bodies without a Code of conduct should introduce such ethic rules including sanctions. (COMP XL – Paragraph 20 b)

 

More transparency in Europe’s financial policy making

Intransparent bodies like the Eurogroup, the Economic and Financial Committee, ‘informal’ Ecofin Council meetings and Euro summits have to become institutionalised, transparent and accountable. (COMP LXVI – Paragraph 42)

 

Binding protection of whistleblowers

 

To protect whistleblowers, Commission should propose a legislative framework for their effective protection (COMP LXVIII – Paragraph 44)

 

Acting against corruption

 

Selecting candidates for EU elections should suffice stricter democratic minimum standards including to vote in secret and with a proper say for the members. (COMP LXIX – Paragraph 45)

 

Convicted criminals guilty of corruption against the EU’s financial interests or within Member States should be excluded. For such disqualification procedures existing in some Member States we want to establish common minimum standards. (COMP LXIX – Paragraph 45)

The EU should become member in the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) as soon as possible. (COMP LXX – Paragraph 45 a)

 

Commission should publish the second EU’s anti-corruption report without further delays. Parliament thereby replies to Commissioner Timmermans’ letter stepping back from his promise to publish such a report. (COMP LXXIII – Paragraph 46 b)

 

More integrity in the EU’s scientific advice

 

To avoid conflicts of interests and bias in studies that EU legislation is based on, studies should for example be registered before conducted and used also in case they are unfavourable for those who pay for them. Commission should invest more into in-house capacities for independent scientific advice. (COMP LXXV – Paragraph 46 c)

 

Strengthening civil society in the EU’s advisory bodies

 

Experts representing NGOs in EU advisory bodies should receive adequate compensation to empower weaker interests following the best practise of European Supervisory Authority, e.g. the European Banking Authority. (COMP LXXVII- Paragraph 47 a)

 

Strong control rights for the EU parliament over all EU agencies

 

Commission should grant Parliament co-decision powers in the appointment or dismissal of directors of EU agencies. (COMP LXXVI – Paragraph 47)

 

REJECTED

 

These proposals were part of my original draft report but rejectied in the votes or already in the compromise negotiations (a selection):

 

The Legislative footprint remains voluntary, even for rapporteurs and committee chairs who are elected to lead Parliament in legislation. (paragraph 1 and 5 in the draft report)

 

Neither MEPs nor lobbyists are obliged to report their meetings. Parliament’s Bureau is only called to provide infrastructure for those who want to do so voluntarily. (para 1 and 9)

 

No Cooling off for MEPs. Members can take the revolving door into lobby jobs directly after their mandate. (para 21)
Parliament’s ethics committee remains closed to scrutiny by external experts. MEPs are only checked by other MEPs. (para 16)