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1st Jul 2022

Razor-edge victory for more lobbying transparency at EP

  • Centre-right MEPs raise their hands to vote against allowing the public to know the lobbyists they meet. (Photo: EUobserver)

Centre-right and liberal MEPs at committee level in the European Parliament on Thursday (6 December) broadly voted against new rules to boost transparency in the institution.

However, their objections were overturned and outvoted by other MEPs in the constitutional affairs committee (AFCO), in a surprise, razor-edge, result.

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  • EPP voting list on rules of procedure (Photo: EUobserver)

The new rules require committee chairs and others given special tasks to draft reports, known as rapporteurs, to publish online all scheduled meetings with lobbyists.

It also requires parliament to tweak the personal home pages of MEPs so that they can publish their monthly expense accounts, if they so choose to.

Another compromise text that would require MEPs to only meet registered lobbyists was dropped - posing questions on whether a mandatory joint EU transparency register, demanded by the European Commission, will ever see the light of day.

The latest rule change still requires an absolute majority backing (ie of at least 376 MEPs) in a plenary vote scheduled for January before it becomes official.

"The result today was a step in the right direction towards more open and responsive politics, but this is far from over," said Vitor Teixeira, a policy officer at the Transparency International Brussels office.

He said MEPs must now support the amendments in plenary, noting it "as opportunity to finally address issues around lobbying and corporate influence in Brussels."

The amendments were part of a larger report drafted by British socialist Richard Corbett on the so-called rules of procedure.

Thursday's vote was done by hand, making it difficult to trace which particular MEP voted for which measure.

Centre-right MEPs raised their hands to vote against requiring committee chairs and others to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists.

But slight confusion over the counting meant they resorted to an electronic vote, resulting in 10 votes against from the centre-right and liberal MEPs. Eleven other MEPs voted in favour, passing the amendment by a single vote.

The voting had initially been scheduled to take place last month but was delayed following a late opinion by the parliament's legal service.

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Internal legal European parliament documents circulated Tuesday, and seen by EUobserver, rule it illegal to force MEPs to meet only registered lobbyists. The opinion will likely render a larger effort to create a mandatory register for lobbyists null and void.

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A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

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