Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us