Strasbourg round-up: Transparency register

Written by Carlo Casini, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Gerald Häfner and Ashley Fox on 16 April 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

Key rapporteurs on parliament's modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register give us their views.

Carlo Casini is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur on the modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register

The word lobbying in some EU member states has a negative meaning but this judgment is unfair within the European institutions. MEPs often have to make decisions on technical and complicated issues that are not always well known. Above all, there are technical differences between the various member states.

Therefore, the information provided by lobbyists can be useful and sometimes necessary. Of course, the MEP must decide what are the criteria for evaluating the common good for the most Europeans and not just the interests of individuals, particular groups or even nations. It would therefore be necessary for the information provided to come from a variety of lobbyists, so that, from the adversarial approach between different interest groups, the parliamentary assembly may obtain a report that is informed and fair. This is, however, very difficult. Therefore, transparency is a necessary condition to reduce the risk of incomplete and biased decisions.

I have argued on behalf of the European people's party that the key requirement for the transparency register must relate only to people and organisations that wish to carry out lobbying activities, or who are in an exceptionally powerful position to influence a single case. It would be absurd to require registration of any individual citizens or small groups who meet MEPs. Therefore, we focused on incentives for enrolment on to the register, targeting professional bodies like law firms, who are obliged to respect client confidentiality and do not ordinarily perform lobbying, but who can still carry it out in some cases for particular customers. However these are more issues that will be explored further and hopefully resolved in the review of the transparency register which is expected by the end of 2018.


Anneli Jäätteenmäki is parliament's ALDE group shadow rapporteur on the modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register

The EU needs more transparency as citizens have a right to know how decisions are being made. For this, Europe needs a mandatory transparency register where all the lobbyists must register. The voluntary register has not been working well enough. A significant amount of relevant information is lacking and many powerful lobbyists have not yet registered.
 
In addition to a mandatory transparency register, the European parliament shall introduce a 'legislative footprint'. In other words, any rapporteur shall attach to their legislative report a list of lobbyists who were heard during its drafting and who have made a significant contribution to it. Additionally, a similar list shall be also annexed to parliament’s other reports as well. Democracy requires transparency.


Gerald Häfner is parliament's Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur on the modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register

European citizens have the right to know who influences the legislative process in the EU. The introduction of the transparency register for the European parliament and commission in 2011 was an important step, but several loopholes remain. So far 75 per cent of lobbyists have registered, but some of the most important players (like the finance industry) have not, as illustrated in the recent study by CEO and Alter-EU.

While the Greens were able to ensure the revised rules adopted included some improvements, the overall mechanism still remains unsatisfactory. This is particularly the case for law firms, whose lobbyists and lobbying activities will still remain hidden behind the dubious claim of lawyer-client confidentiality.

The Greens have pushed for a mandatory lobbyist register without any loopholes right from the outset - a register that must also include the European council. The revised rules include a request for the commission to present a legislative proposal creating a mandatory register before 2016. This is long overdue and the Greens will ensure it is delivered without delay.

However, as long as the council continues to rule out its own involvement in the register, much of the obscurity of Brussels lobbying will remain. National governments must stop protecting financial and business lobbies, preventing full lobbying transparency at the expense of the interest of all European citizens.


Ashley Fox is parliament's ECR group shadow rapporteur on the modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register

On Tuesday the European parliament voted on the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register. The ECR supports more transparency in the EU and therefore the updates to the register brought into force by the adoption of this report in Strasbourg.

My group and I believe that the provisions contained in the report are useful steps towards opening up the working of the parliament to the public. We hope that this will go some way to help increase the transparency of the very opaque legislative process of the European Union.

We are also pleased to support consideration of the introduction of a 'legislative footprint' to accompany proposals as they are adopted by the parliament. The UK delegation of MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists group already provide information on their websites as to who they meet and what they discuss, and we find that our constituents are interested and encouraged by our open approach.

Therefore, with the adoption of this report, we would like to invite the rest of the parliament to follow our lead on this issue. The publication of information will underline this parliament's commitment to transparency and our individual commitments as MEPs to restoring trust in politics.

 

About the author

Carlo Casini, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Gerald Häfner and Ashley Fox are rapporteurs on parliament's modification of the inter-institutional agreement on the transparency register

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