Sunday

2nd Oct 2022

MEPs reject greater transparency in hidden vote

  • Critics say the lobby register is mandatory in name only for the European Parliament (Photo: Arek Dreyer)

MEPs in a committee have voted down efforts to make the European Parliament more transparent, refusing also to shame lobbyists convicted of fraud and corruption.

Other measures to make it easier for the public to follow how MEPs operate were also rejected.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The amendments were part of a wider report on the so-called mandatory register for lobbyists, aimed at making the EU institutions more transparent, put to a vote on Monday (12 April).

Although the report itself passed, the majority of MEPs in the constitutional affairs committee (Afco) scuppered proposals to make themselves more accountable.

"After half a decade of negotiations, the parliament adopted the most minimal changes possible and the real issues on the transparency of lobbying at EU level were left unsolved," said Vitor Teixeira from Transparency International EU, an NGO, in an email.

Seeing how individual MEPs voted on amendments at the committee level is not possible, unless requested, leaving constituents in the dark. The number of votes cast on the amendments are instead published.

Those records show that most refused to apply transparency principles on themselves, while gutting out any notion of "mandatory" in the lobby register.

The current EU joint transparency register lists thousands of lobbyists that attempt to shape and influence lawmakers and policy makers.

Over four years of talks have been held to make the register obligatory for the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.

Among the stated goals was to bring the EU institutions closer to the public.

But MEPs have proclaimed themselves exempt, citing their "freedom of mandate", a notion staunchly defended by European Parliament vice-president Rainer Wieland.

Some 60 amendments had been tabled on a draft report written by former European Commissioner and current MEP Danuta Huebner.

"Only groups of interest listed in the register may carry out lobbying activities," she said in a tweet, following the adoption of her report.

"It will give citizens an insight into how lobbyists influence the EU law-making process," she added.

Binding or not binding?

Yet an amendment in her report demanding a "binding system" to prevent unregistered lobbyists from meeting MEPs was rejected by almost everyone.

Twenty-two in the committee opposed it, while only six were in favour.

Preventing unregistered lobbyists from meeting assistants and advisors was also shot down by 21 MEPs against six.

Another amendment, seeking to inform the public via an annual report of lobbyists convicted of crimes such as fraud and corruption, was dismissed by 17 against, 10 in favour, and one abstention.

Even a proposal to ensure that the committee follows through on European Parliament commitments on transparency and lobbying was rejected.

The rejection was tabled via an amendment by Germany's Wieland and Sven Simon, both from the centre-right European People's Party.

The report will now go to the plenary for a vote from all the MEPs, against the backdrop of the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe, intended to promote civic engagement with the EU.

This article was updated on 15 April, 2021 at 14:16 with a statement from Transparency International

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

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.

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

Leading MEP: 'anti-democratic' to meet only registered lobbyists

Dutch liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld says MEPs should not be required to meet only registered lobbyists. "It is profoundly anti-democratic," she said. But Transparency International EU, an NGO, has described the lobby exemption for MEPs as "scandalous".

Von der Leyen slammed for not revealing Pfizer CEO texts

The European ombudsman has criticised the European Commission for its handling of a request for public access of text messages that were exchanged between president Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Opinion

What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  2. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  3. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  4. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  5. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  6. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  7. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  8. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us