Sven Giegold
Mitglied der Grünen/EFA-Fraktion im Europaparlament

Sprecher Europagruppe Grüne

On lobby transparency, Finnish embassy to the EU leads by example: other government representations need to follow!

Flagge Flag Finland (image: EU Commission)

Since early 2019, the Finnish Permanent Representation (PermRep) to the EU is the first to proactively publish lobby meetings online: https://finlandabroad.fi/web/eu/meetings (translated below). Meetings of the Finnish Permanent Representative and his deputy are published, those of the 90 other staff so far not. 3 other PermReps sent their lobby meetings upon request to the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory. All other PermReps do not publish anything, do not keep records of meetings (including the German PermRep) or do not even reply on a question regarding their meetings. (See at the end of the mail for details.)

 

Next week Wednesday 13 February, Parliament, Commission and Council meet for the next political negotiation for a stronger EU Transparency Register for Lobbyists. Commission decided in 2014 that Commissioners, their cabinets and directors-general must only meet registered lobbyists and publish their meetings online. Parliament, just last week (31 January) adopted binding lobby transparency rules for decision makers among MEPs. Rapporteurs, shadows and committee chairs have to list online their lobby meetings. The original amendment for this rule was a Green initiative, based on the report on transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions drafted by Sven Giegold. The Council of Member State remains as only EU-institution without any binding lobby rules so far.

 

Finnish Greens/EFA MEP Heidi Hautala, Vice-President of the European Parliament, commented:

“Finland has a long history in successfully pushing forward good governance and administrative transparency. I am very glad to see Finland taking the lead in lobby transparency, and I hope that the other member states decide to follow soon enough.

Clearly there is a momentum to continue the EU institutions negotiations on transparency register. The parliament just took a step forward as the report on revision of the parliament’s Rules of Procedure enters into force on Monday. From then on, I expect all rapporteurs to publish their lobbying footprint.”

 

German Greens/EFA MEP Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU-institutions commented:

“The German representation in Brussels should offer the same lobby transparency as their Finnish colleagues. The Finnish online publication of lobby meetings is a remarkable exception in the black hole of the otherwise notoriously intransparent Council. The blockade of national governments against binding lobby transparency in Council undermines the good name of Commission and Parliament as leading in lobby transparency.

Lobbying must finally become transparent in all EU institutions. Transparency is needed to contain the dominance of the financially strongest interests. Where Permanent Representations are exceptionally transparent, this dominance of economic powerful interests is obvious. The Council must finally adopt its own rules for lobby transparency. The German and other blocking governments must allow citizens to know who their representatives meet in Brussels and publicly list the lobby meetings of the Permanent Representation. Transparent decisions are an effective antidote against populism.“

 

 

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BACKGROUND: The first 4 lobby meetings of the Finnish PermRep

https://finlandabroad.fi/web/eu/meetings

 

29.01.2019: Meeting of Permanent Representative and Neste Representatives

Deputy Permanent Representative Minna Kivimäki met with Ilkka Räsänen, Neste’s Counsel for Social Relations, and Mikael Ohlström, Head of Neste’s Brussels office 29.1. at 09:00. (Neste is a Finnish energy company)

 

14.01.2019: Meeting of the Deputy Permanent Representative and Director of the EK Office in Brussels.

Deputy Permanent Representative Minna Kivimäki met with Taneli Lahti, Director of EK’s Brussels office 14.1. at 11:00. (EK is Elinkeinoelämän keskusliitto, Finnish Confederation of Industries.)

 

18.12.2018: Meeting with a Permanent Representative and a representative of the Friends of Europe think tank

Permanent Representative, Ambassador Marja Rislakki met Geert Cam, CEO of Friends of Europe think tank on December 18, 2013 at 13:30.

 

21.11.2018: Meeting of the Permanent Representative and the representatives of Akava

Permanent Representative, Ambassador Marja Rislakki met with representatives of Akava on November 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm. (Akava is the Confederation of Unions for Professionals and Managerial Staff in Finland.)

 

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BACKGROUND: The replies of 19 PermReps to the request of CEO

From Annex 1 on page 91 of 108: https://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/ceo-captured-states-final_0.pdf

 

When requested by the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, the 3 PermReps of the Netherlands, Ireland and Romania released their lobby meetings. The Dutch and Romanian PermReps included the lobby meetings of staff attending the Council’s Working Groups where EU laws are negotiated in detail. The Portuguese and British PermReps keep records, but rejected the request to release them. 6 PermReps including Germany answered they do not keep sufficient records of lobby meetings. 7 PermReps including France, Italy and Poland did not care to reply within half a year.

 

Austria: no reply

 

Belgium: no record kept

 

Bulgaria: no record kept

 

Cyprus: no reply

 

Denmark: no record kept

 

Finland: publish online all lobbyists and companies who met the Permanent Representative/Ambassador or Deputy

 

France: no reply

 

Germany: no record kept

 

Greece: no reply

 

Ireland: lobby meetings of Permanent Representative and Deputy published upon request https://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2019/01/data-permanent-representations-lobbying

 

Italy: no reply

 

Malta: no reply

 

Netherlands: lobby meetings of relevant staff published upon request https://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2019/01/data-permanent-representations-lobbying

The list included the name of the organisations met,  the Ministry involved, the date of the meeting, and the subject matter discussed.

 

Poland: no reply

 

Portugal: record not released because they were diplomatic and not administrative documents as defined by Portuguese freedom of information rules

 

Romania: lobby meetings of relevant staff published upon request https://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies/2019/01/data-permanent-representations-lobbying

The list of included the date of the meeting, the name of the lobby group met, and the general theme of discussion.

 

Spain: no record kept

 

Sweden: no sufficient record kept

 

UK: record not released on the grounds of “prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs” and “international relations”

 

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BACKGROUND: Parliament’s resolution on transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU-institutions

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2017-0358&language=EN&ring=A8-2017-0133

 

The European Parliament…

 

  1.  Recalls its revision of the Rules of Procedure of 13 December 2016, according to which Members should adopt the systematic practice of only meeting interest representatives that have registered in the Transparency Register, and calls for meetings between interest representatives and Secretary-Generals, Director-Generals and Secretary-Generals of political groups to be included; asks Members and their staff to check whether the interest representatives they intend to meet are registered and, if not, ask them to do so as soon as possible prior to the meeting; urges the Council to introduce a similar provision which includes permanent representations; deems it necessary to oblige registrants in the Transparency Register to produce documents to demonstrate that the information submitted is accurate;

 

  1.  Reiterates its call on the Council, including its preparatory bodies, to join the Transparency Register as soon as possible; calls on all Member States to introduce legislation advancing the transparency of interest representation; calls on the Member States to introduce rules whereby interest representatives should make transparent where their contacts with national politicians and public administration are aimed at influencing European legislation;