European Parliament leaders have asked for a business group to be removed from its premises following accusations over its influence on policy.
Meeting on 24 April, the College of Presidents, comprising Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering and the political group chairmen, recommended that close ties between MEPs and representatives of major multinational companies via the European Business and Parliament Scheme be severed.
A letter presented to Parliament leaders on 24 April by Monica Frassoni, the co-president of the Greens Group, raised “serious doubts” about the “true agenda” of the scheme and asked the EP presidency to “shed light on [its] activities […] to ensure it does not pursue any hidden lobbyist agenda,” according to press reports.
The scheme was made public by EU Democrats, a European political party led by Danish eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde. In a statement, Bonde alleged that “twenty eight leading multinational companies have had their own lobbying office in the European Parliament (EP), with Parliament’s telephone number and address”.
Bonde said MEPs have been involved in “secret lobbyist activities” on behalf of companies like Gaz de France, Telefonica, Thalys and British American Tobacco.
Reacting to these accusations “with a considerable sense of bemusement”, British MP Bruce George, the president of the International Association of Business and Parliament (which administers the scheme), claimed those who portray the EBPS as a secretive lobby “possess a different view of reality”.
The EBPS has “no policy views” and was created as an “alternative to lobbying”, George insisted. Instead, it facilitates “a transparent and reciprocal relationship” between the business community and the European Parliament, he said.
The final decision on the future of the group rests with the Parliament’s Quaestors, who are responsible for the institution’s administrative and financial matters, though their acceptance of the College’s recommendation is expected to be “formality”, a Parliament spokesperson told EURACTIV. The Quaestors next convene on 21 May.
Transparency is currently a high-profile issue on the EU agenda following the adoption of a Parliament report at the beginning of the month calling for a common, mandatory register of lobbyists to be set up between all three EU institutions (EURACTIV 03/04/08). The report will be voted upon by the full plenary on May 8.