Friday

18th Oct 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 quietly hoards visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to national authorities in case of investigations.

French EU nominee loses vote and is out

France's nominee for EU commissioner lost the vote on her candidacy, with 82 MEPs against and 29 in favour, after hard questions in a second hearing.

News in Brief

  1. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  2. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  3. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  4. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  5. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  6. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products
  7. G7: Libra should not operate until all risks addressed
  8. Kurds agree with US-Turkey ceasefire but not safe-zone

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us