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Lobby transparency in the European Parliament: Christian-Democrats take Lobby register hostage in fighting against binding rules


This morning, Christian-Democrats and Liberals made the Constitutional Affairs committee (AFCO) postpone the first time ever vote on binding lobby transparency. Yesterday, the Parliament’s legal service had finally given its opinion on three compromise amendments by British social-democrat Richard Corbett, rapporteur for the reform of Parliament’s rules of procedure. While the legal service did not support the Green request for a ban on lobby meetings with non-registered interest representatives, Parliament’s lawyers endorsed a mandatory legislative footprint for MEPs who co-author EU laws as rapporteurs, shadows or committee chairs as in line with MEPs’ freedom of the mandate. With a mandatory legislative footprint, office holders are obliged to publish their lobby meetings. The footprint would thereby allow the public to scrutinise if they meet not registered interest representatives and how balanced influence on EU laws is. Citizens would know who influenced laws that apply to them.

 

The vote in AFCO is now scheduled for 6 December after a new shadows meeting to reconsider the compromise on lobby transparency. A plenary vote might follow 11-13 December in Strasbourg. Any delay of Parliament deciding its position on binding lobby transparency for MEPs also delays the possible restart of negotiations between Parliament, Commission and Council on a stronger EU Transparency Register for lobbyists. The institutions negotiated since April but got stuck in July. Commission applies binding lobby transparency, only to meet registered lobbyists and to publish all lobby meetings, for Commissioners and their most important employees since end of 2014. Frans Timmermans, Commission’s negotiator for lobby transparency and Social-Democrat leading candidate, is only ready to agree on a new inter-institutional agreement (IIA) if Parliament (and Council) agree on binding rules as well. Timmermans had welcomed the Green amendments, that the Corbett compromises are based on, explicitly in a recent AFCO debate. So far, Parliament and Council are only ready for voluntary lobby transparency of willing MEPs and Member State representatives. A further delay might not leave enough time for inter-institutional negotiations to conclude before the European elections in May 2019.

 

MEP Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions and leading candidate of German Greens for the European elections commented:

“The time for political tricks is over. Christian-Democrats and Liberals should finally allow a democratic vote if MEPs are ready to guarantee lobby transparency in legislation to citizens. Parliament’s lawyers have given their green light for a mandatory legislative footprint for MEPs to be in line with the freedom of the mandate. Christian-Democrats should stop any obstruction of a democratic decision. They pointed to these legal concerns since years, while opposing as only group Parliament’s resolution on transparency.

The new search for a better compromise may not take hostage the negotiations between EU institutions on a stronger Transparency Register. Any further delay of Parliament’s decision would make it close to impossible to get back to voters with a transparency reform of EU institutions. After years of discussions how to repair the present weaknesses, this would amount to campaign support for populists who wait to attack Europe on such failures.”

 

BACKGROUND:

 

the compromises endorsed by Parliament’s legal service

 

COMP No 2: Covers AM 68 – Rule 11 – paragraph 2a (new)

“Members should publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the Transparency register. Rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs shall, for each report, publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the Transparency register. The Bureau shall provide for necessary infrastructure on Parliament’s website.”

 

COMP No 3 – Rule 11a (new paragraph)

The Bureau shall provide the necessary infrastructure on Member’s online profiles on Parliament’s website for those Members who wish to publish a voluntary audit or confirmation, as provided for under the applicable rules of the Statute for Members and its implementing rules, that their use of the General Expenditure Allowance complies with the applicable rules of the Statute for Members and its  implementing measures.

 

the compromise declared illegal by Parliament’s legal service

 

COMP No 1 : Covers AM 66 and 67 – Rule 11 – paragraph 2

Sentence to be added: “Rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs shall only meet those interest representatives that have registered in the Transparency Register.”

 

Parliament’s resolution of 14 September 2017 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

 

  • 4. Believes that rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs should publish their meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the Transparency Register regarding files under their responsibility through a legislative footprint and that any exceptions should protect the life and liberty of informants acting in good faith;

 

  • 11. Considers that, among the Members of the European Parliament, those appointed rapporteur, shadow rapporteur or committee chair have a special responsibility to be transparent about their contacts with interest representatives in view of their role in EU legislation;