Saturday

4th Jul 2020

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 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.

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

MEPs in January 2019 agreed to a rule change in a bid for greater transparency. The rules included requiring committee chairs to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists. EUobserver spoke to six chairs, who haven't done so yet.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips

MEP in police protection after Czech PM calls him 'traitor'

Three MEPs received numerous death threats in the Czech Republic for asking questions about how EU funds are being spent. One of them had his entire family under police protection after people threatened to murder his four children.

Black MEP: 'I have been a victim of police violence'

MEPs urged an end to structural racism and discrimination in Europe and the US, following the brutal killing of black American George Floyd by US police. Socialists and Green MEPs stressed the need to unblock the anti-discrimination directive.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us