The key document of negotiations on the EU Transparency Register for lobbyists is now finally public. The Council has published the document which was formerly kept secret even by the Parliament’s lead negotiators. The published 4-column document shows the already public positions of Commission and Council and for the first time the detailed position of Parliament’s lead negotiators. Parliament Vice-President French Socialist Sylvie Guillaume, and Constitutional Affairs committee chair Polish Christian-Democrat Danuta Hübner, represent Parliament in negotiations with Commission and Council to update the current inter-institutional agreement on the Transparency Register.
Tomorrow, Parliament’s internal Contact Group on the Transparency Register will meet. During this meeting, the lead negotiators consult with representatives of all political groups on the last and next negotiation meetings with the other EU institutions. Yet, despite the stalemate of the first political meeting, no new proposals are on the table.
MEP Sven Giegold, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions comments:
“The finally public position of Parliament’s lead-negotiators proves: the shilly-shallying on the transparency of Parliament’s position came on top of a lack of transparency in substance. While the Commission has made bold moves towards more transparency, Parliament is hardly offering more than the notoriously non-transparent Council to make the lobby register binding. The lead-negotiators, backed by the European Parliament’s groups of Christian-Democrats, Social-Democrats and Liberals, are not even ready for binding lobby transparency for rapporteurs and committee chairs. Without a step forward in Parliament’s position, the lead-negotiators risk to drive negotiations on the Transparency Register over the cliff.
Parliament’s lead negotiators even want to use the inter-institutional agreement to make intransparency of lobbying mandatory for the future. Council is not ready to commit to lobby transparency but at least does not ask to make it harder for those member states who want to go ahead. The lead negotiators want to exclude MEPs from binding lobby transparency in the negotiated agreement between the EU institutions. Even a new majority in Parliament would have to ask Commission and Council first before it could introduce a mandatory legislative footprint. The resistance of EPP and Socialists against mandatory lobby transparency is turned into mandatory non-transparency.
New attempts to weaken Parliament’s already weak negotiation mandate are unacceptable. Lobby meetings should happen as transparent in a bar on Schuman or Place Luxembourg as inside the Berlaymont or Parliament building. The lead-negotiators Guillaume and Hübner propose to define lobby meetings only as such meetings ‚taking place on institution premises‘.”
Please note: After the Contact Group meeting 16 May 2018, we corrected our criticism on Patronage of lobby events. While the point is indeed deleted at one point, it is re-added at another point of the text. We regret this mistake.
We also corrected the formulation, that the lack of transparency in process and access to documents was a “cover up” for a lack of transparency in substance. While both lacks of transparency are real, we are not interested to dwell on causal relationships. We apologise if this was understood as concluding bad intentions.
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(1.) BACKGROUND: The 4-COLUMN-DOCUMENT and key issues:
4-column document on the Transparency Register provided by Council: https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/5478/response/17187/attach/5/Requested%20document.pdf
(a) Dangerous: proposal to bind Parliament against lobby transparency of MEPs
Lead negotiators want to add in Article 2 (‚Definitions‘, as new subpoint ge on page 4 of 20) “Meetings: While meetings with Members are not conditional upon registration, Members should adopt the systematic practice of only meeting with registered interest representatives. Members can also draw up a list of their interactions with interest representatives in a legislative footprint, annexed to their reports.”
Τhe words “While meetings with Members are not conditional upon registration” could be understood as to bind even future European Parliaments after next elections, not to oblige rapporteurs and committee chairs to publish their lobby meetings. If lead-negotiators will not drop this demand, the result of negotiations could be worse than the present rules.
(b) In contradiction to Parliament’s plenary decision: limiting lobby meetings to those inside EU institution premises, excluding cafés of place Lux and around Schuman
The lead-negotiators propose as new text in Article 2 (‘Definitions’, see page 4 of 20): “‘Meeting’ shall mean a bilateral or multilateral encounter organised at the initiative of either one or more interest representatives or of one of the three institutions, taking place on institution premises, about a specific issue related to EU policy-making or implementation. Encounters of a purely private or social character, as well as spontaneous encounters, are excluded.”
While defining lobby meetings without spontaneous encounters is reasonable, the new condition “taking place on institution premises” would exclude lobby meetings happening in cafés of place Lux and around Schuman or in even fancier premises provided by lobbyists. This contradicts Parliament’s decision to aspire to “close all loopholes” in lobby transparency rules and would rather open a big new one.
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(2.) BACKGROUND: How the 4-column document got finally public
Sven Giegold’s request to Parliament’s lead-negotiators: http://www.sven-giegold.de/2018/we-demand-transparent-transparency-negotiations/
EU General Court judgement for transparent 4-column documents: http://www.sven-giegold.de/2018/ecj-judgment-on-trialogues-breakthrough-for-more-transparency-in-eu-legislation/
Helen Darbishire’s request to Council (successful): https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/inter_institutional_agreement_on_2#incoming-17187
Helen Darbishire’s request to Parliament (awaiting response): https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/inter_institutional_agreement_on
The Lead Negotiators response to Sven Giegold’s request:
From: GUILLAUME Sylvie
Sent: 14 May 2018 21:07
To: GIEGOLD Sven <email@example.com>
Cc: BECK Christian <firstname.lastname@example.org>; HUEBNER Danuta Maria <email@example.com>; TAJANI Antonio <firstname.lastname@example.org>; …
Subject: RE: 4-column-documents in Transparency Register negotiations
Dear Mr Giegold, Dear Colleague,
Many thanks for your recent messages concerning the access to the 4-column-document which was drawn up in the framework of the first meeting of the negotiations for a revised Interinstitutional Agreement on the Transparency Register.
As Lead negotiators involved in those Interinstitutional negotiations, we were supposed to report back to the Contact Group about the 1rst tripartite negotiation meeting, on 2nd May. Due to changes to the plenary agenda, we were obliged to postpone this meeting to another date, but decided to distribute the document of the Political meeting with Commission and Council of 16 April, for proper information of MEPs of the Contact Group.
As you know, we are committed to strengthening the transparency of the decision-making process. During our political meeting, the three institutions agreed to ensure that the process is highly transparent. Notably, we agreed to host information sessions for stakeholders on the state of play, with a first session to be held on 21st June.
Notwithstanding these facts, we cannot ignore that certain rules apply and need to be respected. Your reference to the De Capitani case, currently under examination by the JURI committee , is misleading since this case pertains to the ordinary legislative procedure, whereas the Interinstitutional negotiations on the Transparency Register are of a non-legislative nature.
Furthermore, you may know as well that a request for public access to this very same 4-column document has been introduced. The question of public disclosure does not fall within the remit of the contact group or the negotiators and is handled in accordance with the Bureau decision implementing Regulation 1049/2001.
We have recently been informed that access will be granted. However, we kindly ask you to keep this document as an internal one, until the public access to documents‘ procedure is concluded pursuant to Parliament’s applicable rules.
Counting on your good cooperation in making these negotiations a success.
Sylvie Guillaume and Danuta Huebner
De : GIEGOLD Sven
Envoyé : jeudi 3 mai 2018 17:35:59
À : TAJANI Antonio; GUILLAUME Sylvie; HUEBNER Danuta Maria
Cc : BECK Christian
Objet : 4-column-documents in Transparency Register negotiations
Dear President, Mr Antonio Tajani,
Dear Lead Negotiators, Ms Sylvie Guillaume, Ms Danuta Hübner,
On 19 April I asked you for the 4-column-document used in negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission on the Inter-Institutional Agreement on the Transparency Register. Yesterday, 2 May 2018, we received the document as a paper version in an envelope marked “confidential”. In the mail sent yesterday by Secretariat of the Conference of Presidents (CONF), the request to treat the document as confidential was explained: “As the consultation with the other institutions on the publication of the four-column document included in the file is still ongoing, please treat that document as confidential.” Could you confirm if you share this request for confidentiality or if you agree with treating this document as public?
The EU’s General court ruled on 22 March 2018 in the case de Capitani v Parliament on the issue of access to 4-column documents in negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission. In this case, Parliament’s legal service argued in the same line of yesterday’s mail that ongoing negotiations would be disturbed by a publication of not finalised compromise texts. Yet, the General Court rejected the legal service arguments related to the provisional nature of information contained in the multicolumn tables, to the need of maintaining a good climate in negotiations with the other institutions, to the necessity to have a space to think and to the temporary character of the refusal to full access. The General court annulled the decision of non-disclosure and clearly acknowledged the overriding public interest justifying the disclosure.
The General court’s ruling is directly applicable. Therefore, I would like to ask you to clarify that this and following 4-column documents in the negotiations on the Transparency Register are public. Please, allow for negotiations on transparency to be transparent.
Many thanks and kind regards!
From: GIEGOLD Sven
Sent: 19 April 2018 12:00
To: TAJANI Antonio <email@example.com>; GUILLAUME Sylvie <firstname.lastname@example.org>; HUEBNER Danuta Maria <email@example.com>
Cc: BECK Christian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Transparency Register negotiations
Dear President, Mr Tajani,
dear lead-negotiators, Ms Guillaume and Ms Hübner,
This Tuesday, European Parliament, EU Commission and Council of the EU met for the first time on political level to discuss the update of the IIA on the EU Transparency Register. As a basis for these negotiations, a 4-column document was compiled, spelling out Parliament’s offers more precisely than the European Parliament negotiating mandate adopted by the Conference of Presidents on 15 June 2017. We had asked for such a detailed positioning of Parliament as legal language in track changes to Commission’s position already during the work of the contact group. We did so at the beginning of our common text work, again when the first EP mandate was drawn up by the lead negotiators, and last time when the mandate was decided and the start of negotiations approached. We welcome this work has been finally done.
We believed then and now that this work should be transparent to citizens, in particular when the content at stake is the transparency of EU politics itself. During the contact group, it was argued such transparency might be detrimental to the aim of negotiations. On this question, the balancing of aims and values in EU treaties concerning the transparency of 4-column documents during ongoing negotiations among EU institutions, on 22 March 2018, the EU’s General Court ruled in the case de Capitani v Parliament. The General court ruled that the European Parliament must in principle grant access, on specific request, to documents relating to ongoing trilogues.
Could you, therefore, share this 4-column document and all related supporting documents with us? Or better, could you make the 4-column document available to the public on Parliament’s homepage ahead of further individual requests? Parliament, as the chamber of citizens, should lead by exemplary transparency in negotiations about transparency of the EU political process.
With thanks and kind regards
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(3.) BACKGROUND: the positions of EU-institutions
Commission’s draft: http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2016/EN/1-2016-627-EN-F1-1.PDF
Annex to Commission’s draft: http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2016/EN/1-2016-627-EN-F1-1-ANNEX-1.PDF
Parliament’s transparency resolution (‘Giegold report’): http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-TA-2017-0358&language=EN&ring=A8-2017-0133