Saturday

6th Mar 2021

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

  • The EP plenary transparency vote may be held by secret ballot (Photo: European Parliament)

European lawmakers have delayed a plenary vote on their own transparency - amid a push by some German centre-right EPP members to hold a secret ballot on the proposed measures.

The European parliament plenary had been scheduled to vote on Wednesday (16 January) on a so-called rules of procedure report, that includes demands to grant greater public insight into lobbying influence on lawmakers.

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

  • EPP members all rejected pro-transparency amendments at the committee level in December (Photo: EUobserver)

But with the vote postponed, some EPP lawmakers are now seeking to ensure the public remains in the dark when it comes to transparency.

"It is absurd that the vote on the biggest transparency reform in this parliament could happen in secret," warned Vitor Teixeira, a policy officer at the Brussels-based Transparency International EU.

Teixeira said keeping the public in the dark about how individual MEPs vote on the report would shed further doubt on claims made by the EPP last November in its manifesto.

The EPP manifesto says transparency is needed to counter corruption - but the latest push for a secret ballot by some of its members appears to contradict that aim.

An EPP group spokesperson confirmed to EUobserver that the idea of a secret ballot had indeed been mentioned last week in a meeting.

"The group was pretty divided on the topic," he said, noting any final decision will be made a few days before the final vote which is now set for the end of January.

According to parliament rules, the request for a secret ballot only needs the approval of 20 percent of its members, meaning the EPP could force the vote to happen behind closed doors.

Expenses and lobbyists

The delay appears linked to a separate issue on shaping political groups, but the report, along with a slew of other measures, also calls for greater transparency for lawmakers and lawmaking.

First, it would allow the European parliament to tweak its website so that willing MEPs can voluntarily show the public how they spend taxpayer money.

Second, it would ask committee chairs and others given special tasks to draft reports, known as rapporteurs, to publish online all scheduled meetings with lobbyists.

Such measures are compromises on separate efforts to create a mandatory register for lobbyists, a plan pushed by the European Commission but now kicked into the long grass by the parliament.

The German factor

This broad resistance to transparency at the EU parliament is nothing new.

Some three years ago Martin Schulz, at the time the socialist president of the parliament, brokered a deal with the EPP to scupper a vote on second and third jobs for MEPs.

In return, the EPP agreed to protect Schulz from allegations he had used parliament resources during his campaign to become the president of the European Commission. Schulz denied it all.

But the fact remains that the European parliament has members that collectively earned up to €41m from side jobs since mid-2014, posing questions on potential conflicts of interest.

The interest in maintaining those salaries is self-evident.

But do lawmakers, who earn big salaries on the side in the private sector, genuinely work in the interest of the public and their voter base?

Among them is Lithuanian centre-right MEP Antanas Guogo, who earned up to €792,000 on the side, followed by British UKIP MEP Nigel Farage with €420,000.

The far-right tops the charts for the German MEPs, with both Jorg Hubert Meuthen and Marcus Pretzel pulling in the highest incomes.

Razor-edge victory for more lobbying transparency at EP

New rules to force MEPs chairing committees or drafting reports to publish meetings with registered lobbyists took a step closer to reality. The measure was narrowly backed 11 to 10 at the constitutional affairs committee but still needs plenary approval.

Leading MEP defends expenses secrecy

The man tasked with making the EP more transparent has said there are more important issues than making MEP monthly expenses public.

EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses

The General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg argued that disclosure of how MEPs use their monthly €4,400 expenses allowance risks violating an MEP's data protection rights. Journalists behind the case will appeal.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

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.

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. China and Russia abusing corona for geopolitics, Lithuania says
  2. Worries on Europe's infection surge, after six-week drop
  3. EU wants large firms to report on gender pay-gap or face fines
  4. EU Commission cannot hold Frontex to account
  5. Orbán leaves EPP group - the beginning of a long endgame
  6. 'Corporate due diligence'? - a reality check before EP votes
  7. Austrian ex-minister joins list of EU's pro-Kremlin lobbyists
  8. Internal Frontex probe to deliver final report this week

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us