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4th Dec 2022

EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists

  • Gazprom still has access to the European Parliament (Photo: Mitya Aleshkovsky)
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Political pressure is mounting for the European Parliament to unilaterally strip Russian lobbyists of their access badges.

"Accreditation of lobbyists for Gazprom and other Russian state-affiliated entities should be immediately revoked," said Pedro Marques, vice-president of the Socialists & Democrats group, on Wednesday (25 May).

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His backing comes after the Greens, in a letter to European Parliament president Roberta Metsola earlier this week, made similar demands.

"For the moment, we're waiting for a response and if there is political will," said Ska Keller, co-chair of the Greens, and one of the signatories of the letter, in an email.

"Since we just sent the letter, it might still take a few days before we know how things move ahead of if anyone is blocking," she said.

The office of Renew Europe's chair Stéphane Séjourné said they share the same view.

"We support revocation whatever the process," said Séjourné's spokesperson, in an email.

But other groups appear more ambivalent — or have yet taken a unified position.

"We haven't discussed this specific issue as a group," said a spokesperson from the Left.

The Left, he said, however would support revoking access for all lobbyists working for violent regimes.

A spokesperson from the centre-right EPP did not respond, when asked. Nor did a spokesperson for its leader, German MEP Manfred Weber.

Hesitation

The pressure comes amid hesitation from the European Parliament on preventing Russian lobbyists gaining access to its buildings.

This comes despite a proposal by EU parliament president Metsola to stop them from entering the premises of all the EU institutions.

Metsola floated the idea over 80 days ago.

Some 13 Russia-headquartered lobbyists such as Gazprom and Lukoil, can still enter the parliament's premises at will.

Metsola's original plan sought to have them first removed from the EU's joint-transparency register.

Being listed in the register is a requirement for any lobbyist wanting to gain official access to EU institutions.

The parliament argues the Russian lobbyists breached the register's code of conduct, citing reputational damage.

But getting them pulled from the register also entails an agreement with the European Commission and the Council, representing member states.

According to document requests filed by Peter Teffer at Follow the Money, a Dutch-based news site, the Council under the French EU presidency is obstructing those efforts.

The European Parliament could, however, move ahead on its own.

Asked why this hasn't happened, an EU parliament spokesperson said "different paths are being looked at and considered."

Its own internal rule book says passes can be revoked if the register's code of conduct has been violated.

This includes reputational damage, the very same cited by the parliament in its proposal to get them removed from the transparency register.

Asked for comment, Gazprom did not respond.

But Lukoil's main representative in Brussels Maxim Bunin did.

He says meetings planned with the European Commission have been suspended and that no meetings with MEPs have taken place since Russia's war with Ukraine.

"Our entry badges to the Parliament required a special activation at the accreditation center both times when the representatives of our company were there over the last months," he said, in an email.

He also said the company fully complies with the EU transparency register's code of conduct.

"The company is not under EU sanctions," he pointed out.

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