Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) EU lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has warned that the proposals by the President of the European Parliament in response to the Qatar-Morocco scandal are “inadequate, leave the gate half-open, and don’t come close to ensuring there will be no future scandals.”
Some of the proposed reforms, it says, are promising: the ban on so-called friendship groups with third countries; revolving door rules for MEPs; and the obligation for all MEPs to disclose meetings.
A statement reads, “But far more is needed to prevent interference in decision-making by repressive regimes: legislation obliging foreign governments and their lobby representatives to publish contracts – a EU-wide Foreign Agents’ Registration Act – as already exists in Australia and the US. This requires real oversight and enforcement.”
It goes on, “New ethics rules are also needed to block lobby consultancies and others from working for repressive regimes that violate human rights.
“Stronger checks on the information that lobbyists disclose in the Transparency Register is long overdue, but the register rules themselves are inadequate and the register must become legally binding to enable effective sanctions,” says the Brussels based group.
“Crucially, Metsola’s proposals are weak on the issue of enforcement of Parliament ethics rules. This requires a strong role for independent ethics experts instead of failing self-policing by MEPs.”
December’s scandal – which saw trunks and bags of cash released by the Belgian police after five MEPs were found to have taken direct bribes from both repressive regimes – was a stark reminder of the failure of lobby regulations in EU institutions.
The EU Parliament’s response is a start, but much more needs to be done,says CEO.
Olivier Hoedeman, Coordinator of Corporate Europe Observatory, said: “Whilst this proposal by the European Parliament is a welcome start to regulate lobbying by repressive regimes in the EU, it remains just that: a start.
We need more than interim measures. We need a robust set of lobbying rules, properly enforced. This proposal misses the mark on key ethics issues, and of course without robust enforcement, all of these measures risk being rendered meaningless.”
In the early stages of the scandal, Corporate Europe Observatory compiled demands the group has tabled over the years, all of which are highly relevant today.
Since 2015, Corporate Europe Observatory has warned against repressive regime lobbying in the EU institutions.The first report in the series looked at Kazakhstan and Russia, among others. Page 53 has a case study on Qatari lobbying.
Meanwhile, co-President of the Left Group Martin Schirdewan (Die Linke) said, “The European Parliament is a blow to the credibility of European politics. There is a structural problem. President Metsola should now put all her energy into clearing this up.
“Her proposals are insufficient. To fight corruption in the European Parliament, we demand secure whistleblower protection and an independent ethic body. Transparency rules must be enforced consistently and those who violate them must be punished accordingly.”
Co-President of the Left, Manon Aubry (La France Insoumise) noted,: “Corporate capture, corruption, conflicts of interests: Qatargate is only the tip of the iceberg and the 14 measures proposed by the President of the European Parliament barely scratch the surface of the problem.
“The Left has been highlighting unacceptable flaws and loopholes in the European Parliament’s integrity safeguards for years.
“Following our initiative at the December plenary, Parliament finally adopted, almost unanimously, the comprehensive roadmap we proposed, but Metsola’s plan only includes 4 out of 15 measures adopted. Now is the time to be true to our vote and implement the Resolution adopted in plenary, instead of coming up with new diversions from behind the scenes.”