2nd Jun 2023

Brussels stutters over transparency text

A key European Commission transparency text that may one day lift the lid on Brussels' lobbying and farm aid has been delayed due to "minor details".

Administration commissioner Siim Kallas' new transparency plan was up for adoption by the commission Tuesday (25 October), but was bumped off the agenda at the last minute by president Jose Manuel Barroso's cabinet, a source confirmed.

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

  • Danish people were surprised to learn the EU subsidises its royal family (Photo: EUobserver)

Based on Mr Kallas' speech to a think-tank last week, the draft text proposes member states should be legally obliged to publish the individual beneficiaries of EU farm and structural funds.

It also calls for lobbyists and NGOs to register activities in Brussels and for EU civil servants to adopt a common code of conduct on accepting gifts for example.

"The president's cabinet will look again at the ways and means to present this, whether as a green paper or a communication", Mr Barroso's spokeswoman Francois Le Bail said, confirming that it will now come up before the next commission meeting on 9 November.

"It's also about the practical details. We have 350,000 recipients of funds for cultural projects alone. If we were to create a database, we would have to employ 50 people just to update it. But the information already exists, so maybe we can just link to it", she explained.

Commission denies split

Ms Le Bail denied that there is any kind of disagreement over the substance of the text however, despite suggestions to the contrary by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday reported that Mr Barroso and over half the other 24 commissioners want to "weaken" the document in a clash between a Nordic culture of openness, represented by Mr Kallas and communications chief Margot Wallstrom, and Mediterranean traditions of government opacity.

She said the transparency project has been on the president's agenda since he took office in 2004, adding that it was spurred on by the Spiros Latsis affair this spring, when media found out that Mr Barroso accepted a free holiday on his friend's luxury yacht.

Shades of Denmark

The delays over the details of Mr Kallas' transparency text also recalls Denmark's torturous publication of EU farm aid payments in June last year.

It took veteran journalist Kjeld Hansen and the Danish International Center for Analytical Reporting 18 months to prise the information out of Copenhagen.

The authorities denied original requests for the information claiming the data was dispersed in too many files, as Mr Hansen told EUobserver in an article last month.

In the end, it transpired that officials like the former Danish minister for food and agriculture and current farm commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, the Danish royal family and major corporations such as Danisco gobbled up most of the €1.34 billion of EU aid.

England (but not the UK) and the Netherlands have since followed Denmark, while Estonia, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Ireland have published partial records.

Big bucks at stake

EU farm aid was worth €43 billion last year, almost half the entire budget, with France and Germany trousering the most with €9.4 billion and €6.7 billion, respectively.

On the lobbying side, Mr Kallas estimates the EU pays NGOs €2 billion a year intended to be channelled to developing countries, while public affairs firms working in Brussels generate income of €60 to €90 million a year.

It is unclear at this stage whether his transparency ideas will ever become European law, or if the commission will simply float the suggestion to MEPs and member states and leave it at that, however.

Brussels to hammer out postponed transparency plan

Publishing details on who gets what from EU funds and who stands behind the lobbies and NGOs dealing with EU institutions will boost the bloc's transparency, Europan Commission vice-president Siim Kallas argues in a comment for EUobserver.

MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024

"This will be the first time a member state that is under the Article 7 procedure will take over the rotating presidency of the council," French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the key lawmaker on Hungary, warned.

European Parliament scales back luxury MEP pension fund

The European Parliament's Bureau, a political body composed of the president and its vice-presidents, decided to slash payouts from the fund by 50 percent, freeze automatic indexations, and increase the pension age from 65 to 67.

WhoisWho? Calls mount to bring back EU directory

NGOs and lobbyists slammed the EU commission for removing contact details of non-managerial staff from its public register, arguing that the institution is now less transparent.


MEP luxury pension held corporate assets in tax havens

While the European Parliament was demanding a clamp down on tax havens, many of its own MEPs were using their monthly office allowances to finance a luxury pension scheme that held corporate assets in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and elsewhere.


What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.


Poland and Hungary's ugly divorce over Ukraine

What started in 2015 as a 'friends-with-benefits' relationship between Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, for Hungary and Poland, is ending in disgust and enmity — which will not be overcome until both leaders leave.

Latest News

  1. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  2. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  3. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  4. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  5. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  6. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  7. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall
  8. Adapting to Southern Europe's 'new normal' — from droughts to floods

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us