Monday

18th Jan 2021

EU parliament chairs explain missing lobbyist meetings

  • MEPs who chair European Parliament committees are required to publish their meetings with lobbyists (Photo: European Parliament)

Last year, the European Parliament adopted rules requiring MEPs who chair committees to publish their meetings with registered lobbyists.

But earlier this week, the NGO Transparency International revealed six out of the 22 chairs have so far failed to do so since July 2019.

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EUobserver has reached out to all six, asking an explanation. All have responded.

Among them is the European Parliament's committee on industry, research and energy (or Itre, in EU parlance).

The committee is an obvious target for corporate lobbyists, given it deals with everything from renewable energy to the defence industry to space policy.

Its chair is Romanian MEP from the centre-right, Cristian Silviu Busoi.

Busoi is also leading two European Parliament files on the scientific and technological cooperation between the EU and India, as well as the Ukraine.

In an emailed statement, Busoi appeared to be somewhat unaware of the parliamentary rule, but has promised to disclose them all.

"Please be assured that we will immediately publish any and all required missing documentation," he said, noting he had remained open for all meetings related to his duties.

He also said his parliamentary activities are visible daily on social media to help keep people informed.

In a follow-up email, he further explained that any immediate delay to the publication of the meetings is due to the internal administrative mechanics of the European Parliament.

"I can assure you that all my meetings are registered or under ongoing registration procedure," he added.

Another likely lobbying target is the committee on employment and social affairs.

The committee is currently looking at files dealing everything from fair working conditions to access to affordable housing.

Slovak conservative MEP Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová is chair.

Nicholsonová said most of her meetings were with other MEPs. She also had meetings with officials from the EU institutions, EU agencies and member states.

"Up until this day, meeting lobbyists in relation to any file was generally not the case," she said.

Except for one.

Nicholsonová says she held one meeting with a "service provider" linked to the e-evidence package, a controversial proposal allowing police access to communication data.

She did not name the service provider, noting no votes had taken place on the issue.

"Rest assured that this meeting and every future meeting with any stakeholder relating to any files and reports to which I will be involved with will be transparently published, in accordance with the rules of procedures," she said.

No lobbyists met

Meanwhile, the remaining four committees are unlikely to interest many corporate lobbyists.

The sub-committee on human rights is one of them.

It is also possible that some human right activists may want to meet with the chairperson without public disclosure, to protect themselves or their families.

Its chair Belgian centre-left MEP, Maria Arena, said her meetings hadn't been published yet "due to changes in the office".

"Our office has an internal registry on all of Ms Arena's meetings," said one of her assistants. The list is set to be published "in the upcoming weeks."

The chair of the European Parliament committee on constitutional affairs is Antonio Tajani, the former president of the same institution.

Aside from people who attend hearings, "we don't meet any kind of lobbyist," said his office.

The office of Spanish centre-right MEP Dolors Montserrat, who chairs the committee on petitions, said the same.

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, a Spanish centre-left MEP who chairs the civil liberties committee, made similar comments.

"Mr López Aguilar very seldom meets with people or organisations falling under the scope of the Transparency Register," his office said in an email.

"Having said that, we pledge ourselves to a determined effort to improve the transparency of our office."

EU transparency on lobbyist meetings still piecemeal

Small steps are being made to reveal who is lobbying who within the EU. But the approach is basically haphazard and piecemeal - meaning the public remains largely in the dark and unable to truly scrutinise the influencers.

New EU lobbyist register not mandatory, critics say

The press conference held jointly this week by the three EU institutions declared a breakthrough agreement on a joint-transparency register for lobbyists. Not everyone is convinced.

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