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EU votes for more transparency in dealing with lobbyists

Jon Shelton
January 31, 2019

The vote, which was passed by 380 to 224 in the European Parliament, will require rapporteurs to publicly list all meetings with registered lobbyists. The conservative EPP group, however, insisted upon a secret ballot.

EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, with the sculpture 'Europa' by May Claerhout
Image: picture-alliance/D. Kalker

European parliamentarians on Thursday voted in favor of more transparency in dealing with lobbyists. The vote, which was held in secret due to pressure from the body's conservative European People's Party (EPP), represents a change to existing rules of order.

Read more: Watchdog criticizes lax anti-lobbying rules for EU politicians

The vote, passed by a margin of 380 to 224, will require rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and parliamentary group leaders to list all meetings with lobbyists online. The rule applies to these individuals as they are instrumental in drafting law. All other parliamentarians are invited to voluntarily declare meetings with lobbyists.

'A big step toward more transparency'

Although Social Democrats, Greens, the Left party and so-called euroskeptics all called for stricter rules, the changes were resisted by the EPP and Liberals. One of the main drivers of the vote was Green party EU parliamentarian Sven Giegold, who said the reform would be "a big step toward more transparency regarding lobbying."

The changes were opposed by others, however, such as Daniel Caspary, leader of Germany's Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) group in the European Parliament, who called them "unrealistic." Caspary claims that he will now be required to ask his "constituents to sign affidavits saying they aren't lobbyists."

Giegold says such claims will only feed citizens' suspicions about EU opacity and will not help those groups who oppose them. Groups such as Transparency International (TI), an NGO, also called such opposition "absurd," noting that the new rules only pertain to registered lobbyists.

New rules of conduct

The EU Parliament also passed new rules of conduct Thursday. The new rules will require parliamentarians to avoid all insulting language, sexual harassment and other "inappropriate behavior." Parliamentarians who refuse to sign this code of conduct could be denied sought-after committee positions.

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