The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER EU)
PRESS RELEASE, Brussels, 27 March 2011
ALTER-EU has repeated calls for strict new rules and greater transparency following further revelations in a UK newspaper today (27 March) that Spanish MEP Pablo Zalba Bidegain tabled an amendment in the European Parliament in return for promised payments from undercover journalists posing as lobbyists.
ALTER-EU said that the MEP must resign immediately and that the European Parliament leadership must commit to far-reaching ethics and transparency reforms. These must include a ban on all jobs that involve lobbying or otherwise lead to conflicts of interest, and the leadership must introduce a clear roadmap for implementing change.
Speaking for ALTER-EU, Paul de Clerck said: "The cash-for-amendments scandal has exposed not only corruption, but also some very serious broader problems that result from the Parliament's far too weak transparency and ethics rules. The European Parliament leadership must now act to solve these problems once and for all. This must include a ban on lobby jobs and other second jobs that lead to conflicts of interests for MEPs. Anything less will result in new scandals and a further crumbling of European citizens' trust."
ALTER-EU said the scandal underlines the need for the Parliament to curb the power of corporate lobbyists, who frequently succeed in blocking or weakening urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection laws. As a first step the Parliament must ensure that all those who lobby to influence EU decision-making are obliged to register and reveal full details about who they are lobbying for, what they are lobbying for, and with what budget, as well as names of all lobbyists. The current voluntary register does not provide this and the new joint register planned for later this year will not force lobbyists to reveal this information.
Olivier Hoedeman from ALTER-EU member Corporate Europe Observatory added: "The new scandal underlines that Parliament needs a strong ethics code to regulate against second jobs, financial interests and other sources of conflicts of interest. To prevent undue influence rules are needed on hospitality and gifts from lobbyists, and MEPs and staff should be prevented from going straight through the revolving door into industry."
On 20 March, the Sunday Times revealed that three other MEPs had accepted cash for amendments in an undercover 'sting' operation. Austrian MEP Ernst Strasser and Slovenian MEP Zoran Thaler, two of those accused, have since stepped down. Adrian Severin, the third MEP to face allegations remains in post. Out of 60 MEPs approached by the undercover journalists with an offer of payments for amendments, 14 agreed to further discussions. According to Austrian media reports Strasser was earning hundreds of thousands of euros with lobbying for industry as an MEP before the Sunday Times sting operation. There are currently no rules to stop MEPs from having other jobs, regardless of the potential conflicts of interest. ALTER-EU has welcomed the statements made by the European Parliament's President Jerzy Buzek last week, who said that the Parliament must "strengthen its code of conduct" and introduce "a legally binding code of conduct for lobbying in EU institutions". In the wake of the cash-for-amendments scandal, this call has been backed by numerous MEPs. Buzek and the Parliament's 14 vice-presidents meet on 31 March to discuss these issues.
For more information, please contact:
Paul de Clerck, +32 (0) 494380959, firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivier Hoedeman, +32 (0) 47448645, email@example.com
Nina Katzemich, LobbyControl (DE, EN) Tel: +49(0)221/1696507, +49(0)179/5093022, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of over 160 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms. www.alter-eu.org
1: "Insight: Fourth MEP taped in 'cash-for-laws' scandal", Sunday Times, 27 March 2011
2: ALTER-EU's demands for 'Upgrading European Parliament transparency and ethics rules to prevent conflicts of interest' includes: "The European Parliament needs stronger transparency and ethics rules, for instance to ensure that MEPs do not receive money, gifts, or hospitality from industries they are regulating. MEPs should put their shares in a blind trust if they are related to their work in the Parliament and Rapporteurs on parliamentary reports should not have a financial interest in the industry affected by the legislation at stake. Effective transparency and ethics rules are needed for Intergroups and other cross-party groups involving MEPs and lobbyists." See http://www.alter-eu.org/documents/2010/06/01/ending-corporate-lobbying-p...
3: ALTER-EU assessment of European Parliament - Commission agreement on a common 'Transparency Register', http://www.alter-eu.org/documents/2011/02/11/alter-eu-position-on-transp...
4: "Euro MPs exposed in 'cash-for-laws' scandal", Sunday Times, 20 March 2011 5: Examples include Monica Macovei (PPE, Romania), Carl Schlyter (Greens, Sweden), Thijs Berman (S&D, The Netherlands), Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK), Dennis de Jong (GUE, The Netherlands), to mention a few.