On Tuesday, the EU Parliament voted in Strasbourg on renewing its Parliament's Rules of Procedure. These regulate the daily work in Parliament for Members of the EU Parliament and their staff. A clear improvement has been made with regard to dealing with lobbyists. The principle of “No Registration, No Meeting” was embedded in the plenum, the assembly of all EU Parliamentarians. According to this, MEPs are only allowed to meet lobbyists if these or their organisations have been entered in the transparency register. However, these meetings must still not be made public.
Lobbyists and representatives of interests may lose their right of access if they or their organisations refuse to give evidence to committees. This was the case last year in the Special Committee against Tax Avoidance. Hence, in future, companies have to adhere to the fundamental principle of fairness.
There was a slight improvement concerning MEPs’ conflicts of interest. In future, MEPs are no longer permitted to engage in active and paid lobbying. Even though this is progress on the status quo, it is still possible to be paid for speeches, articles or similar activites, which might potentially lead to conflicts of interest.
It is unfortunate that the problem of the “revolving door” concerning MEPs has not been eliminated. The vote went against a cooling off period after the end of a term in office. Hence, Members of the EU Parliament are able to continue to accept jobs as lobbyists immediately after their work as legislators. The fact that once again Parliament has backed away from a “legislative footprint”, must also come under criticism. This would have meant that in an appendix to legislative texts, the positions taken by lobby organisations would have had to be made public. This would have given civil society an insight as to who had been able to exercise their influence regarding legislative texts and who had not been heard.
Miriam Douo von ALTER-EU (Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation) argues that the new Parliament’s Rules of Procedure are clearly missing bite. She urges the next President of the European Parliament to take transparency and integrity seriously and to put a complete stop to conflicts of interest and additional lobbying activities.