ALTER-EU reaction to Buzek's seven-point plan, as presented in the conference of presidents of the European Parliament on 31 March, 2011.
ALTER-EU welcomes European Parliament President Buzek's letter about reforms following the cash-for-influence scandal, endorsed by the Parliament's leadership yesterday. But, concerns remain about the lack of clear measures announced. Most of the seven points announced are problem areas or options, rather than concrete steps to long overdue improvements in transparency and ethics.
The call for the European Commission to prepare legislation for a legally binding mandatory lobby register, and new parliamentary measures to secure interim de facto mandatory transparency is welcomed. However, the step to require lobbyists to register on a daily basis (instead of year-passes) will not bring the highly needed information regarding the lobby process.
ALTER-EU recommends that the Parliament makes it mandatory for each lobby group that requests a year pass to include the following information:
- The issues they are lobbying on;
- The names of all their lobbyists;
- The amount of money involved in lobbying the Parliament.
On several issues the letter’s demands are clearly insufficient. Instead of the recommendation that "any actual or potential conflict of interest must be declared" new rules are needed that prevent lobby-related second jobs that create a conflict of interest.
Several other important problem areas are missing from the seven point plan:
- Measures to curb the revolving door: upon ending their term in the European Parliament MEPs should be barred from accepting any employment that involves lobbying or lobby advice targeting EU decision-making for a significant period of time;
- Effective transparency and ethics rules are needed for ‘Intergroups’ and other cross-party groups involving MEPs and lobbyists;
- Strict limits on gifts and hospitality received by industry lobbyists.
These points must be included in the upcoming Code of Conduct for MEPs. The work on developing concrete transparency and ethics reforms will be taken forward in a new working group consisting of MEPs. The composition of this working group will be of crucial importance for the reform process to succeed. It must therefore be composed of MEPs free of conflicts of interest and with a proven record of ambitiously improving EU ethics.