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Rules of Procedure: EU Parliament strengthens its efficiency and transparency, but fails to toughen integrity rules


 

Today the European Parliament revised its internal rules of procedure, which govern both its day-to-day functioning and the ethics standards for MEPs (“Corbett report”). Debates focused on minority rights in the Parliament, lobby transparency and stricter rules on integrity.

The Greens presented a “plan for integrity and transparency in the European Parliament” consisting of 46 amendments to the rules of procedure to avoid conflicts of interest and improve transparency. However, many improvements on integrity and transparency were blocked by Conservatives (EPP) and Liberals (ALDE) in the Constitutional affairs committee. The most important proposals were then tabled again by more than 100 MEPs from 5 political groups and were today voted on in plenary. In September 2016 the Conservatives (EPP), Social Democrats and Liberals blocked the vote on the fully negotiated Giegold-report on “Transparency, Accountability and Integrity in the EU institutions”. This forced the Corbett report to become the arena of decision how transparent Parliament should become. Today, just before the vote the team of lead negotiators and representatives of the political groups met for the first time which discusses Parliament’s position for the update of the Transparency Register for lobbyists on which Sven Giegold represents the Greens.

MEP Sven Giegold, rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions and spokesperson of the German Greens in the European Parliament, comments:

“It’s a big victory that MEPs will only be allowed to meet registered lobbyists. Lobby transparency is a key element to increase the citizens’ trust in the EU Parliament. The new commitment only to meet lobbyists who declared themselves in the Transparency Register is a strong wake up call for the ones in the dark to register or to lose the contacts their work relies on.

Many new internal rules strengthen the European Parliament’s efficiency and help avoid obstruction and paralysis. Reasonable quotas for Parliamentary questions, statements on votes and roll call votes are useful to strengthen the influence of democratic decisions.

The Parliament needs integrity and transparency to be strong. The ban of paid lobby jobs for Members of Parliament is a welcome achievement given the fierce resistance of the Conservatives (EPP). Tougher transparency and integrity rules is the right answer to the scandals of former and current EU Commissioners such as Oettinger, Canete, Barroso and Kroes. EU Commissioners will have to go through tougher integrity tests in the Parliament, both before they enter office and while executing their mandate.

Conservatives and Liberals are undermining our democratic legitimacy by refusing to fix Parliament’s integrity system where it has proven to be weak. MEPs who violate the Code of Conduct can still hope to evade any sanctions and many of us wanted much stricter rules of the side jobs of MEPs. Even rapporteurs and committee chairs are not yet obliged to be transparent about which lobbyists they meet or which written lobby input they get. Trialogues will remain largely intransparent.

Please, find a graphical analysis of progress achieved on the key elements of the Green Plan for Transparency and Integrity in the following table:

Green plan for transparency and integrityResult after plenary vote in the new Rules of procedure
Mandatory lobby transparency for MEPs: No registration, no meetingProgress : MEPs voted to adopt the systematic practice of meeting only with registered lobbyists
Legislative footprint: showing who the lobby isNo progress :
- Whether MEPs compile a legislative footprint to show who lobbied them on their reports remains purely voluntary. Better rules will depend on the negotiations of the new interinstitutional agreement on the Transparency Register between Parliament, Commission and Council.
- Shadow rapporteurs will not be required to be free of conflicts of interest.
Cooling off period for MEPs: close the revolving doorNo progress : Cooling off: MEPs can still take lobby jobs directly after their mandate. A minimalist obligation to notify the Parliament will remain without effect because no one is called to check notifications on conflicts of interest.
Closing lobby loopholesStrong progress:
- Lobbyists who refuse to accept invitations to hearings before the European Parliament lose their entrance badges. And lobbyists will not be able to get EP entrance badges that disguise them as the entourage of an MEP.
- More transparency about who finances EU Parliament’s intergroups, formalised lobby meetings between MEPs and organised interest representatives.
Integrity with teeth: fixing Parliament’s advisory committee to the code of conduct for MEPsSome progress :
Win : Allegations of conflicts of interest of MEPs have to be forwarded by the Parliament’s President to the Advisory Committee if they are not manifestly vexatious. The President therefore has no room anymore to block such investigations.
Loss : If the Advisory Committee finds that MEPs violated the code of conduct with a conflict of interest and recommends sanctions, the Parliament’s President can still block the application as he did with all sanctions recommended to him so far. Furthermore, the Advisory Committee remains composed only of MEPs, no external experts will balance the de facto conflict of interest of MEPs who investigate into the conduct of colleagues.
Loss : The Advisory Committee is not called to better define what constitutes a conflict of interest.
No financial ties between MEPs and lobbyistsSome progress :
Win : The ban on lobby side jobs of MEPs is toughened by explicitly ruling out paid lobby work for MEPs.
Loss : No clarification that payments for speeches, articles or extra functions of MEPs should be included in the ban on MEPs taking money for their political decisions.
Loss : MEPs still only have to declare publicly income but not property and debt as Parliamentarians are required in France, Croatia and other countries.
Reconnecting to citizens: Transparency has to be understandableNo progress : MEPs just declaring to work as “consultant” or “lawyer” can continue to hide their their clients who they lobby for.
Trilogue transparency: shedding light onto how legislation is negotiatedSome progress :
Win : The results of trialogue meetings have to be made public in writing, not just in a minimalist and oral version in Committee.
Loss : Despite some progress on reporting about trilogue results, most documents in trilogues will still be treated differently from other legislative documents and usually kept secret.
Strengthening minority rights as guardian of TransparencyNo progress: Big groups can still veto inquiry committees or their proposed mandate when such a request passes through the Conference of Group Presidents before it has to be voted in plenary. The inquiry committee on the Luxembourg Leaks, for example, was blocked by the Conference of Presidents this way.
Strengthening Parliament: getting serious by following up on decisionsNo progress : How Commission and others follow up on Parliament’s recommendations will not be listed by Parliament. Therefore, there will be no new pressure to take Parliament’s recommendations seriously.
Integrity for new Commissioners*Strong progress : Candidates for the post as Commissioner can proceed in their hearings only when cleared by the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of any conflict of interest. The same rule applies for Commissioners once they are in office, should there be a change in their portfolio or changes in their financial interests.

 

Download as .pdf file: http://www.sven-giegold.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2016-12-13_Table.pdf

Green Plan for Transparency and Integrity in the European Parliament: http://www.sven-giegold.de/2016/green-plan-for-transparency-and-integrity-in-the-european-parliament/

 


This Tuesday at 8 pm the next edition of my series of online-discussion “Europe Calling” will take place: “Supporting Whistleblowers. Meet Antoine”. During the video conference I will discuss with LuxLeeaks whistleblower Antoine Deltour, Julia Reda of the Pirate Party and Anja Osterhaus of Transparency International how Europe can and must support whistleblowers like Antoine. Please, finde more information and the link zu register for the discussion:

http://www.sven-giegold.de/2016/europe-calling-whistleblowing

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