Proposals on Lobbying

  1. No meetings with unregistered lobbyists.  At the very least rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and Committee Chairs should adopt the systematic practice of meeting only with registered lobbyists.
  2. MEPs should publish their lobby meetings on Parliament’s website. The Parliament’s administration should facilitate this by providing the necessary infrastructure.
  3. More transparency over who funds EU Parliament intergroups (cross-party groups where MEPs often meet lobbyists). In many of the Parliament’s so-called “intergroups”, MEPs meet with lobbyists on a regular basis. Parliament’s rules oblige intergroups to be transparent about who finances their meetings and activities. Yet many declarations are not up to date. Propose obligatory annual updates in order to remedy this and call on the Parliament Quaestors, who are MEPs elected to the administration, to take responsibility for enforcing intergroup transparency rules.
  4. Lobbyists falling into the remit of the EU’s Transparency register should be prohibited from getting EP entrance badges that disguise them as part of the “entourage” of an MEP. At the moment there is no safeguard to prevent this back-door entry to the Parliament.
  5. Lobbyists who refuse to appear before the European Parliament to speak in a committee without giving a proper reason for it should lose their entrance badges.

Proposal on Ethics

  1. Controlling the Revolving Door for MEPs: Enacting a cooling off period for MEPs. Depending on how long MEPs served they receive a transitional allowance for 6-24 months after their mandate, no strings attached. During this period they should at least be prohibited from taking up work as a lobbyist. They should have to notify any new job to the Parliament and the Advisory Committee should check if it violates this rule.
  2. More teeth for the decisions of the Advisory Committee. To date, the Advisory Committee has recommended sanctions for MEPs on 11 occasions. The Parliament’s President rejected all of them. Since all investigations happen behind closed doors, the President doesn’t have to justify his decisions to anyone. The Parliament President should be obliged to be transparent if he or she does not apply a recommended sanction.  The Advisory Committee should be renamed “Ethics Committee” to express its stronger role.  
  3. At present, the ethical Advisory Committee is composed of MEPs who are handpicked by the President of the Parliament. In order to avoid this obvious conflict of interest, external experts should be appointed instead. They should be chosen after an open call based on their qualification as a judge, auditor and/or anti-corruption expert; and this selection should be done by all political groups in the Parliament bureau, not just by the President alone.
  4. Thus far the Advisory Committee only scrutinises MEPs if the President asks them to do so. This should be changed so that the Committee can act on its own initiative.
  5. At the moment the Advisory Committee checks the declarations of interest only when they get alerts from the public and are allowed to do so by the President. They should instead proactively check an annual sample of at least a quarter of MEPs’ declarations for completeness and understandability. If necessary they should have access to additional documents.
  6. Accepting complaints from citizens. As long as a complaint is substantiated by facts, anyone should be able to address them directly to the Advisory Committee without having to go through the office of the Parliament’s president.
  7. Better defining conflicts of interest. The Constitutional Committee should provide a better definition of conflicts of interest, including a transparent list of examples to guide MEPs.  
  8. Systematic screening of shadow rapporteurs for conflicts of interest. Rapporteurs for a dossier in Parliament lose their function in case they breach the code of conduct, for example because of a conflict of interest. This rule should be extended to include also shadow rapporteurs since they have nearly the same influence as the main rapporteur but so far face no scrutiny.
  9. No financial ties between MEPs and lobbyists. Ban lobby side jobs for MEPs. MEPs are already forbidden to accept cash or similar incentives for voting a certain way or influencing the decision-making process. However, side-jobs are still allowed. MEPs should be banned from having second jobs where they also act as a lobbyist for specific interest groups.
  10. MEPs should declare all their side jobs to allow their peers and the public to judge if they might have conflicts of interest. Yet some only declare to work as consultant or lawyer without naming their clients. This is a loophole that should be closed.
  11. No external financing of MEP staff. There should be a clear ban on external money being used to finance MEPs’ staff, as this creates a clear and serious risk of a conflict of interest.
  12. MEPs should declare property and debts, not just side income.  MEPs should make transparent what they own or owe, not just what they earn. MEPs should therefore declare their property, debts and liabilities.
  13. Rapporteurs and Committee Chairs should state their independence when taking up their role. Rapporteurs and Committee Chairs have key influence over Parliament’s decision making. They are supposed to be free of conflicts of interest yet this is hardly ever checked. To strengthen scrutiny, they should sign a declaration of independence before starting their special roles.
  14. No payments for speeches, articles or extra functions of MEPs. To further strengthen existing anti-corruption rules the ban on MEPs accepting extra money should also include speeches, articles or appearances, because these are activities that are part of a MEP’s job and they should need no extra remuneration. Similarly, serving on a board of an association, corporation or similar should not be a reason for any payments.

Proposals on Transparency

  1. Legislative footprint showing who influenced what. Legislative footprint as a rule, should at least be an obligation for Rapporteurs and Committee Chairs because of their key role in the legislative process. Legislative footprints are lists of interest representatives who have been consulted while drafting a report. MEPs can already list these influencers on a voluntary basis, but this should become a rule.  
  2. Rapporteurs and Committee chairs receive plenty of lobbying on what they should write into EU laws. The public should know where the content of their laws come from. Therefore all written input to Rapporteurs and Committee Chairs should be collected and disclosed by Parliament. MEPs should say where their amendments come from on all reports, not just legislative ones. Some amendments tabled by MEPs are originally drafted or inspired by lobbyists. This is legitimate but the sources behind those amendments should be public. Present rules do not allow MEPs to add justifications behind their amendments to all reports, so the current limitation to only legislative reports should be dropped.
  3. Transparency has to be understandable. Full transparency about MEPs’ side income: without upper ceilings or brackets. MEPs already have to declare their side incomes but only in broad, vague bandwidths. MEPs should declare their exact side incomes instead.
  4. Declarations of interest should no longer be submitted in handwritten form. This makes them impossible to read and to analyse properly, let alone to make any transparency apps or other online scrutiny tools. Language barriers are also a problem: declarations should be translated at least into English, French and German, thus striking the right balance between access and translation costs.
  5. Transparency for agenda-setting in committees. Some decisions within the Parliament are not made in the open but only by those who set the agenda. Committee coordinators are decisive in these agenda decisions, which is why  the minutes of their meetings should be public and then made available in all official languages.
  6. Supporters of amendments in plenary should be transparent. Amendments in the European Parliament’s plenary can be submitted by Committees and by Political Groups yet also by 40 individual MEPs. However, the names of the MEPs are not public - this needs to change.
  7. Trilogue transparency: Parliament should publish updates on legislative negotiations. Trilogues are informal meetings between Parliament, Council and Commission representatives and they happen behind closed doors, despite their decisive role in legislation. Committee Chairs should publish documents reflecting the outcome of each meeting proactively. It should be clear that trilogue documents should be just as accessible as other documents related to the legislative process. Transparency should be the rule and secrecy the exception.

Proposals on Parliamentary Oversight

  1. Strengthening minority rights: Limit big groups’ veto against committees of inquiry. Although in many Parliaments setting up an inquiry committee is a right granted to the opposition, in the European Parliament any such decision has to pass through the conference of group presidents. This effectively gives the big groups the power to stop or weaken any inquiry that might go against their interests. Instead, Parliament should be able to vote on a proposal to initiate an inquiry committee directly, without having to go first via the political groups’ leadership.
  2. Strengthening Parliament: getting serious by following up on decisions. Keeping tabs on how Parliament’s recommendations are applied. Parliament regularly calls on the Commission, Council and Member States to take specific actions or to deliver certain policies. Too often nothing happens because there is not enough follow up. A register on the demands made by Parliament including information on how they are followed up can strengthen the pressure for action and add to the EU Parliament’s limited rights.

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