On 31st January 2019, the EU Parliament was witness to a far-reaching and not previously expected success. MEPs supported the report by the British MEP Richard Corbett (S&D) on the general revision of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which contains significant improvements concerning the transparency of lobbying in the EU Parliament. Just 4 votes tipped the balance.
The EU MEPs have decided that influential MEPs have to disclose their meetings with stakeholders and lobbyists. These include rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs for the respective dossier as well as Committee chairs. Other MEPs too are being encouraged to disclose their dates. This is an important step towards a more transparent legislative process. In the past, only individual MEPs disclosed their meetings with lobbyists to the EU Parliament on a voluntary basis. Still, the Commission has disclosed its meetings with interest representatives since November 2014; however, so far only at top level of administration.
The AK has been demanding the introduction of a “legislative footprint” for years and also has addressed MEPs and promoted the report in the run-up to the vote. From the point of view of citizens it must be clearly visible who influences the legal acts of the European Union. However, due to last week’s vote, the EU Parliament has now - in view of the forthcoming EU elections - sent an important democratic signal to European citizens.
Absurdly though, the vote on this important dossier on the subject of transparency took place under a secret ballot. This decision had been forced through by application of the EPP faction prior to the vote. In reaction to the secret ballot, numerous MEPs held up signs, which also publically documented their approval. Finally, 380 MEPs voted in favour of and 224 MEPs voted against the report; 26 MEPs abstained. Hence, only 4 votes tipped the balance to achieve the absolute majority, which was required for this vote.
A next step will be to also implement in practice the voting success achieved. The new rules, according to which meetings with stakeholders on currently negotiated dossiers have to be published, will be enforced with the start of the next parliamentary period (2nd July 2019).
It is to be hoped that the vote will bring a breath of fresh air to the negotiations between the three institutions Commission, EU Parliament and Council on a joint Transparency Register. As early as 2016, the Commission had submitted a relevant proposal; and yet, it was already 2018 when the target was announced to finalize negotiations by the end of the year. However, due to a lack of progress, the Commission eventually suspended the dossier.
In the meantime, urgent need for action in view of increased transparency is particularly required in respect of the Council. So far, the Council has not associated itself with the joint EU Transparency Register (currently Commission and EU Parliament). The two other institutions have now also taken action with regard to publishing dates with lobbyists. A new Publication by Corporate Europe Observatory on the influence of corporations on governments of EU Member States , which was issued this week, also shows the considerable need for action on behalf of the Council.