Monday

17th Jun 2019

Secret ballot on transparency is no secret, says EPP

  • A secret ballot is rarely used (Photo: European Parliament)

An MEP spearheading demands for a secret ballot on a transparency vote at the European Parliament's plenary on Thursday (31 January) says it is needed to protect colleagues from a public backlash.

The Thursday vote spans proposals to require leading MEPs, like committee chairs, to publish meetings with registered lobbyists.

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

It also opens up the possibility for willing MEPs to disclose on the European Parliament's website how they spend taxpayer money on themselves via their generous €4,500 monthly tax-free sum for expenses.

"A lot of colleagues approached us and said 'we share your view but we are under such big pressure'", Daniel Caspary, a German centre-right MEP told EUobserver when asked to explain why a secret ballot was needed.

The centre-right EPP group, the main political force in the European parliament, has triggered a rarely-used parliamentary rule that allows MEPs to hide their individual votes from the public in a plenary vote.

But Caspary denies his group is hiding behind the secret ballot - which is very rarely used.

"We will get bad press for asking for a secret ballot, but we don't hide behind it," he said.

He says the EPP's positions on the proposals to be voted on are already public knowledge, despite promises by its leadership under Manfred Weber for greater transparency.

Weber has yet to respond to questions on whether he supports the secret ballot in light of his pro-transparency statements that shape his bid to become the next president of the European Commission.

The transparency ideas are outlined as an amendment and are part of a much larger rules of procedure report by British socialist Richard Corbett, who himself has demanded the secret ballot be dropped.

Corbett is now seeking to place a ban on secret ballots, noting that politicians should not be allowed "to say one thing in public and then vote another way in secret."

But such arguments appear not to have persuaded the EPP.

Caspary says the secret ballot is also needed to allow MEPs from other political groups to vote against the measures without fear of recrimination.

"We want to open an opportunity ... for the members of those groups who want to join us," he said.

He says he is not against transparency, but prefers having legislation that requires the lobbyists to publish meetings they held with MEPs.

He argues if a lobbyist incorrectly claims to have met an MEP, then the MEP will be trouble if he had not published the same meeting.

Similar views are held by other leading German centre-right MEPs like vice-president Rainer Wieland who claims that such proposals would violate a deputy's "freedom of mandate".

The mandate says an MEP should vote on an individual and personal basis and not be bound by any instructions.

'Thundering disgrace'

But the Brussels-branch of Transparency International (TI), an NGO, disputes such accounts.

Carl Dolan, who heads the TI Brussels branch, described the EPP proposal for a secret ballot as a "thundering disgrace."

TI also note that the obligation to publish meetings with lobbyists only applies to committee chairs and MEPs who draft reports on legislative files.

"For ordinary activities of MEPs, there would be no legal obligation to publish meetings with interest representatives," it said, in a note.

They also point out that publication of the meetings would only apply to those that have already been scheduled.

"Other meetings, such as with citizens, do not have to be reported," it noted.

The amendments water down compromises for what had been a master plan to create a mandatory joint-transparency register with the European Commission.

The commission had pushed for the mandatory register. The European parliament now appears to have other ideas.

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.

Exclusive

How eight MEPs overruled 540 colleagues on office expenses

The EU parliament spends €40m a year on a lump sum for MEPs' expenses with barely any scrutiny. A majority of parliamentarians called for more transparency - but a handful of powerful MEPs mostly dismissed that request.

New 'ID' far-right EU parliament group falls short

The new far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) political group fails to muster enough support among other eurosceptics to become a heavyweight in the European Parliament. But with 73 MEPs, from nine EU states, it managed to secure the fifth spot.

News in Brief

  1. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds
  2. EU ups US imports in beef deal
  3. Unicef: UK among 'least family-friendly' in Europe
  4. Czech PM: No joint 'V4' candidate in commission race
  5. Johnson tops first round to replace May, three eliminated
  6. Bratislava will host new European Labour Authority
  7. Juncker cautions against further climate goals
  8. Study: Counterfeit medicine is a 'growing threat' in EU

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.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  2. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  3. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  4. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  5. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  6. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC
  7. Europe's oil supplies 'at risk' after tanker attacks
  8. EU paths fork for Albania and North Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us