8th May 2021

Leading MEP: 'anti-democratic' to meet only registered lobbyists

Dutch liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld has built a reputation for greater transparency. But when it comes to demanding MEPs only meet with registered lobbyists, she draws a line.

"It is misguided and it is profoundly anti-democratic," she told EUobserver on Wednesday (28 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

She said the "real influence" on MEPs are national parties and governments. They determine who is selected on election lists, she said.

Yet there are also some 13,000 registered lobbyists, seeking to exert influence on European Union level policy and laws.

And they spend anywhere between €1.6bn to €2.4bn per year on it.

Her comments were made after the European Parliament earlier this week voted in favour of creating a so-called mandatory register for lobbyists.

The vote follows five years of debates on the issue. It means the register now applies to all three big EU institutions, including the European Parliament.

European Commissioners are already required to meet only registered lobbyists. The Council, representing member states, only requires rotating EU presidencies to declare meetings.

Meanwhile, MEPs have excluded themselves. They also oppose efforts of having to inform the public.

Except in name, the register won't be mandatory at all.


Transparency International EU, an NGO in Brussels, called it "scandalous."

But In't Veld says MEPs should not be required to leave a legislative footprint.

"It is fake transparency," she said, adding that elected representatives should be free to meet anyone they want.

"The only thing it shows is whom you are meeting, it doesn't show who has an influence," she added.

Instead, MEPs should be judged by voting records and what they do, she said. But figuring out how an MEP votes may not be straightforward for some.

For example, In't Veld along with some 400 MEPs rejected an amendment demanding they meet only registered lobbyists.

The results of the votes on the amendment are found in a 33-page document.

It is labelled "A9-0123/2021 - Danuta Maria Hübner - Am 2", followed by names of MEPs and how they voted.

But the actual text of the amendment is missing.

Instead, it is buried somewhere else on the European Parliament's website.

In't Veld also took issue against having to meet only registered lobbyists. It creates "an indirect pressure" on MEPs to explain why they are meeting one lobbyist but not another, she said.

MEPs who chair committees are required to publish meetings with lobbyists. So too are MEPs who lead on legislative files, also known as rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs.

In't Veld herself publishes her own meetings. She also says her staff helps drafts amendments.

Yet MEP assistants and policy advisors are also exempt from having to disclose lobby meetings.

"There isn't even a system for voluntary publication for the policy advisors, there is no system for publication," said Vitor Teixeira from Transparency International EU.

He says requiring MEPs to meet registered lobbyists helps create awareness. And he argues that access to MEPs also needs to be equal, noting that big industry has an unfair advantage. Bringing more transparency and more accountability to lobbyists is needed given their influence has a continent-wide impact, he said.

"How is that against democracy?" he said.

MEPs reject greater transparency in hidden vote

The European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee have curtailed efforts to make MEPs more accountable and transparent, by rejecting amendments in a report on lobbying. How each voted on the amendments was also kept in the dark.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

New EU lobbyist register not mandatory, critics say

The press conference held jointly this week by the three EU institutions declared a breakthrough agreement on a joint-transparency register for lobbyists. Not everyone is convinced.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

Leading MEP: 'anti-democratic' to meet only registered lobbyists

Dutch liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld says MEPs should not be required to meet only registered lobbyists. "It is profoundly anti-democratic," she said. But Transparency International EU, an NGO, has described the lobby exemption for MEPs as "scandalous".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  2. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  3. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  4. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  5. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  6. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  7. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says
  8. 11 EU states want to cut fossil-fuels from cross-border projects

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us