Since last Monday, compromise amendments for the European Parliament’s rules of procedure offer for new hope for binding lobby transparency for MEPs. Richard Corbett, British Social-Democrat and rapporteur for the rules of procedure, tabled these compromises on the basis of Green amendments while addressing concerns of other groups. The two possible new rules would oblige MEPs, who represent Parliament or their political group in EU legislative negotiations (rapporteurs, shadows and committee chairs), to meet only those lobbyists who have made their intentions and finances public in the EU’s Transparency Register and to publish all lobby meetings.
When these compromises were tabled last Monday evening, the vote in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) was foreseen for Wednesday 10 October. Similar Green amendments had been discussed in committee and in a shadow meeting beforehand. Yet the endorsement by the Social-Democrat rapporteur led the Christian-Democrat shadow, Rainer Wieland (from the German Christian Democrats), to achieve a postponement of the vote for another two weeks. Shadows will be invited for a new meeting, most likely on Thursday 18 October. Commission’s Vice-President Frans Timmermans contributed his views regarding available amendments to Parliament’s rules of procedure in the form of a letter to AFCO chair and lead negotiator Danuta Hübner. He explicitly welcomed the Green amendments, confirming the direct link between the decision on new rules of procedure of the Parliament and the Transparency Register.
On Wednesday, the Contact Group on the Transparency Register met. The Group is composed of representatives of political groups and Parliament’s lead negotiators, Sylvie Guillaume (French Social-Democrat Vice-President) and Danuta Hübner (Polish Christian-Democrat AFCO chair). The Contact Group confirmed Parliament’s interest to continue inter-institutional negotiations with EU Commission and Council for a stronger EU Transparency Register. Yet the Contact Group did not yet find a way to reconcile Parliament’s interest in a stronger Transparency Register and Commission’s Red Line for a new inter-institutional agreement necessary in this regard. The EU Commission obliges Commissioners and their closest aides to exclusively meet registered lobbyists and publish these meetings. Commission now demands such binding lobby transparency for decision makers from Parliament and Council. The two institutions, however, are ready so far only for voluntary lobby transparency of willing MEPs and member state representatives. Therefore, Commission threatens to suspend talks until Parliament or Commission are ready to move.
The new compromises of Social-Democrat Richard Corbett are, therefore, a big help for the inter-institutional negotiations on the Transparency Register. As compromises would be binding (“shall”, not “should”) for those MEPs with special legislative responsibility, they would offer what the Commission asks for. The new compromises for the reform of Parliament’s rules of procedure also represent what Greens, Conservatives (ECR), Left (GUE) and Italian Five-Stars (EFDD) suggested repeatedly in this Contact Group. Liberals and Christian-Democrats, so far, were more skeptical towards binding lobby transparency. Addressing the main concern of Christian-Democrats and Liberals, under the new compromise rules, the freedom of the mandate of MEPs would remain protected since those rules remain voluntary for MEPs without special roles in EU legislation. These following meetings will decide if MEPs return to voters in May 2019 European elections with a strengthened Transparency Register or a failed attempt:
Wednesday 17 October (Brussels): Transparency Register is on the Conference of Presidents’ agenda as item for “decisions / exchanges of views”, beside CoP will decide on whether the rules of procedure are to be voted in October’s or November’s plenary
- Thursday 18 October (Brussels): shadow meeting on rules of procedure (to be confirmed)
- Monday 22 October (Strasbourg): extra ordinary AFCO meeting with vote on rules of procedure
- Tuesday 23 October (Strasbourg): possible but unlikely date for next inter-institutional political level meeting on the Transparency Register
- 23-25 October (Strasbourg): vote in Plenary on rules of procedure (possible already, pending decision in Conference of Presidents on 17 October)
- 13-15 November (Strasbourg): vote in Plenary on rules of procedure (officially scheduled for this date so far)
If you like to report around the topic or one of the events, please contact my office via firstname.lastname@example.org or +32 228 45369.
With Green European greetings
BACKGROUND 1: Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans letter to AFCO chair Danuta Hübner:
BACKGROUND 2: Richard Corbett’s compromise amendments
COMP No 1 : Covers AM 66 and 67 on 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.”
COMP No 2: Covers AM 68 on 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 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.”