The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Updated: Transparency International publishes analysis of lobby meetings in the EP

Monday, 5 December 2022, 08:20 Last update: about 3 months ago

Transparency International EU (TI EU) has released a briefing that analyses more than 28,000 lobby meetings that were published by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) between June 2019 and July 2022. During this period, just over half of MEPs used the Parliament’s publication system.

The analysis contained in this report is based on 28,344 lobby meetings published by MEPs on their individual pages of the Parliament’s website. The data found that five of Malta’s MEPs (two from the PN and three from the PL), published at least some of their meetings on the EU Parliament’s website, but one PL MEP did not publish any – Cyrus Engerer. While for some reason he does not publish on the EU Parliament’s website, he does publish detailed information about these meetings on his personal website.

The average number of lobby meetings per PL MEP (excluding Engerer) was 96, while the average number of lobby meetings per PN MEP was 8, the data shows. The Labour Party MEPs had the 20th highest number of such meetings of all political parties that have representatives within the EU Parliament.

It is, however, pertinent to note that overall 58% of MEPs were publishing such meetings.

“Overall meeting publication is down from 9,700 meetings in the first year looked at, to 9,300 in the last year,” TI EU said about the overall situation in the EU Parliament. “TI EU has also found huge disparities in rates of publication between political groups and member states.”

Since June 2019 MEPs with a special legislative role (committee chairs, rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs) have been required to publish their meetings when it relates to the specific files their role pertains to. All other MEPs have been able to publish on a voluntary basis, TI EU said. “The research also highlighted that only a few member states have a large majority of their MEPs who have published a single meeting over three years (the top three being Luxembourg 100% of MEPs, Sweden 95% and Denmark 93%), while some EU members are lagging woefully behind (Latvia 25%, Cyprus 17%, Greece 10%).

TI EU says that when carried out in a transparent manner, lobbying is a healthy part of the democratic decision-making process. “Expert input almost always leads to better laws and regulations. But it can become problematic when carried out behind closed doors, without public scrutiny. This can lead to undue influence, where some special interests vastly outspend others, and where conflicts of interest may influence outcomes. Various mechanisms are in place in Brussels to minimise the risks of undue influence, but there are significant loopholes in the rules and the way they are applied”

Vitor Teixeira, Senior Policy Officer at Transparency International EU said: “There are two main issues with lobby transparency in the Parliament. First of all, there is no oversight or enforcement of the rules. The second issue is that there are many other people involved in lobbying who are not covered by any rules, including Accredited Parliamentary Assistants and Political Group Advisors. The European Parliament should want to give the public a clear picture of who is influencing policy decisions. This will increase both institutional integrity and public trust.”

The TI EU said that in order to remedy the issues raised by this analysis, and to provide a clearer picture of lobbying, the European Parliament should: Start enforcing the rules that are already in place, by introducing effective oversight and imposing sanctions when the rules are breached; Publish information on lobby meetings in a user-friendly online repository, in open data format, with links to relevant information from the Transparency Register and the Legislative Observatory’ Expand the existing publication rules to make sure they also cover lobby meetings with MEP accredited assistants and the policy advisors of political groups.

Cyrus Engerer replies:

In reply to the publication of this articll, Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer said he is one of the few out of 705 Members of the European Parliament to go over and beyond the minimum voluntary requirements of the European transparency register by listing all the meetings held by his office, in Brussels, Strasbourg, Malta or elsewhere in his website.  

He said he is a strong backer of the 2016 proposal by the European Commission for a mandatory transparency register not only for Members of the European Parliament but which should also be applicable to the European Commission and the Council of the European Union - a proposal that was diluted by the European Parliament and the Council.

In his section "Nothing to Hide" on his website, Engerer lists the date of all his meetings, the organisation he met, the people who attended on behalf of the organisation and also publishes a summary of the discussion held. 

Engerer's Transparency Register can be found on http://cyrusengerer.com/nothing-to-hide/

Engerer has recently gone on record in publicly calling for the European Commission to once again come up with a proposal for a Mandatory Transparency Register for all European institutions during a podcast "Talk With A Progressive" with Green MEP Daniel Freund who had in 2016 led the Transparency International campaign - https://fb.watch/hdmnSFfgjd/

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