Green MEPs have described last week’s announcement by the EU institutions that they had reached agreement on a common lobby register as no more than a “poorly-disguised public relations exercise” ahead of the European elections. The claims were utterly refuted by the European Commission.
Plans to create a single lobby register for the EU executive and the European Parliament gained momentum last Wednesday (22 April) after representatives of both institutions agreed common guidelines and a draft code of conduct (EURACTIV 23/04/09).
An inter-institutional working group (IWG) set up to examine the feasibility of the scheme agreed to create a single, ‘one-stop-shop’ register for both the Parliament and the Commission, and launched a new portal on the EU’s Europa website, giving joint access to the Commission and Parliament registers for the first time.
The group decided that the joint register would be voluntary and list the names of individual lobbyists.
But Green MEPs accused the Parliament’s representatives on the working group of shouting “hooray, great step for transparency,” while at the same time hoping “to bury the issue without anyone noticing before the elections”.
Accusing the MEPs on the IWG of being “complicit with the Commission in producing a poorly-disguised public relations exercise,” Luxembourg MEP Claude Turmes, vice-president of the Greens group, described their actions as “exactly the kind of behaviour that discredits politicians in the public’s eyes”.
“It is absurd that the socialist, conservative and liberal colleagues supposedly representing the Parliament are congratulating themselves on better transparency when they have not even consulted their own colleagues in the institution,” he said.
“They trumpet a pro-transparency agenda, but hit the brakes when it comes to making decisions that will actually change things,” Turmes added.
Italian MEP Monica Frassoni, the group’s co-president, called on the EU assembly’s president, Hans-Gert Pöttering, to ensure that the Parliament’s views are not “compromised” by the IWG’s conclusions.
Lobby transparency ‘out of sight’
Transparency campaigners, meanwhile, warned that genuine lobbying transparency remained “out of sight” despite the IWG’s work.
“The half-hearted attempt to bolt together two weak and very contrasting existing registers makes no attempt to address the fact that the current voluntary register of the European Commission has been shunned by a high proportion of lobby organisations and firms, nor the loopholes of the Parliament scheme, which allows thousands of lobbyists to enter on day passes without registering,” said the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) in a statement.
Commission ‘has always followed guidelines’
Asked to respond to the Greens’ complaints that they had not been able to participate in the IWG, an official at the European Commission told EURACTIV that it was not for representatives of one institution to comment on the internal procedures of another.
But the official was quick to stress that Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, who represents the EU executive on the working group, had been following President José Manuel Barroso’s guidelines for consulting with the other institutions since the transparency initiative’s launch in 2005.
The decision to launch a joint lobby register comes at a time when the EU institutions are especially keen to raise their profile ahead of the European elections in June.