ALTER-EU's 8th newsletter
ALTER-EU's 'revolving doors' campaign update
Also the 'Block the revolving door' campaign has been busy.
At the end of last year, the Commission proposed significant changes to the EU's 'Staff Regulations' which govern the 50,000+ officials who work at the EU institutions. Unfortunately the Commission had failed to take advantage of this revision process by re-vamping the ethics rules and those concerning the revolving door which ALTER-EU considers to be weak and in need of reform. The Commission's proposals went to the Parliament and in fact MEPs have shown themselves to be much more interested in looking at these issues, so much so that Members from several groups including the European People's Party, the Greens and the Liberals, tabled amendments on these issues. These amendments were merged together into 'compromise amendments' and they have now attracted the cross-party support of the lead parliamentary committee on this issue, Legal Affairs.
These amendments ban officials going on a sabbatical from the EU institution to become lobbyists and introduce a cooling off period which would prevent senior officials from becoming lobbyists for one year after they leave. While these amendments are not perfect, they are a step in the right direction.
At some point in the future, this issue will go to a vote before the plenary of the Parliament, and will also be subject to negotiations with the Commission and the member states, via the Council. It is early days to know what will eventually emerge but it is promising that a cross-party group of MEPs has been willing to vote in support of tougher action to block the revolving door.
Don't forget to check out the ALTER-EU webpages on this issue as well as the RevolvingDoorWatch initiative set up by ALTER-EU member Corporate Europe Observatory. And for the very latest, check out this blog which explains more about the EP process: http://blog.brusselssunshine.eu/2012/06/meps-call-for-curbs-on-revolving...
New ALTER-EU member Comhlámh
We are pleased to announce that the Irish NGO Comhlámh has decided to support ALTER-EU. This is particularly timely as the Irish government is at the moment discussing new lobbying transparency regulation, and has organised a consultation recently (for an overview, click here). We hope that other Irish groups that are in favour of greater transparency and better ethics regulation will follow Comhlámh's example.
In order to introduce itself to the rest of the membership, we asked our new member to answer the following question:
Why did Comhlámh decide to join Alter-EU?
What role does Comhlámh see for itself within the coalition and in relation to other members?
What are, from Comhlámh's point of view, examples of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms that got postponed, weakened or even blocked, as a result of influence exerted by corporate lobbyists?
Here's how they answered:
1. Comhlámh decided to join ALTER-EU because we have long been impressed by the work of Corporate Europe Observatory and of the ALTER-EU alliance in documenting the close connections between business and the EU, and the excess influence which big business has over European policy through unregulated lobbying in Brussels. As an organisation we advocate for a just, equitable and sustainable world. In particular we focus on the impact of Europe’s trade policy on countries of the Global South, and the unequal economic power relations between the EU and its impoverished trade partners. We see a strong connection between corporate lobbying in Brussels, and the unfair trade demands which are being made of countries of the Global South in the interest of European big business, and so we joined the alliance.
2. Comhlámh’s policy and campaigns capacity is quite limited and stretched, so we’re still not sure how active we can be in ALTER-EU. But as one of the few Irish members we hope that we can disseminate and support ALTER-EU’s materials and perspectives in Ireland, where a serious discussion about lobby transparency is taking place, due to the conclusion of a public tribunal of inquiry into political corruption in Ireland over the past decades recently that ““corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic”. Our focus is very much on global justice perspectives, so we will bring that to the alliance, and look forward to working with other members, and hopefully persuading some other Irish organisations to sign up too.
3. Comhlámh’s main policy focus is on international trade, and its impact on the Global South. Time and time again we see EU trade policy reflecting the interests of big business in Europe, often to the detriment of poverty eradication and sustainable development in impoverished parts of the world. We believe that corporate lobbyists heavily influence the anti-development positions of the EU on trade policy, for example on EPAs, at the WTO, and more recently on the Raw Materials Initiative.