The Constitutional Affairs Committee has endorsed last December’s political agreement between Parliament, Council and Commission for a common mandatory Transparency Register.
In the draft report by Parliament’s co-negotiator Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) that was approved with 26 votes in favour, none against and two abstentions, the Constitutional Affairs Committee endorsed the political agreement that was reached last December, which aims to strengthen transparent and ethical interest representation in EU decision-making. MEPs also set out their views on future steps to further improve the common transparency culture in the EU, and on Parliament’s internal application of the provisions of the agreement.
Pointing out that high ethical standards, as well as the independence, transparency and accountability of EU decision-makers, are necessary components for citizens’ trust towards EU institutions, MEPs note that the provisions of this agreement represent a minimum and could be expanded further. Τhey also mention the possible establishment of an independent ethics body common to the EU institutions as another potential step in the right direction, and reiterate their long-standing preference for establishing the Transparency Register via a legislative act, in order to render it legally binding for third parties. As for the activities covered by the new rules, they underline the importance of the activity-based approach enshrined in the text, which includes indirect lobbying - especially in relation to those new forms of interaction that have become more prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, MEPs welcome the change of status for the Council of the EU from that of an observer to a formal party to the agreement, but highlight that the scope of the agreed terms could have been broader in relation to Council activities, and insist on maximum participation in the voluntary scheme for Permanent Representations and other officials. They also stress that the Commission has not made any substantive additional commitments to the scheme in the negotiations compared to the previous state of affairs, and insist that any revision of the conditionality arrangements should include meetings with less senior staff, setting the threshold at Head of Unit level. In a similar vein, they call for the introduction of such a rule for Parliament officials, in order to allow senior officials to meet only with registered interest representatives.
The report is expected to be tabled in the upcoming plenary session (26-29 April).
Since 2011, the Parliament and the Commission have jointly operated a public register for interest representatives. The Council has been an observer since 2014. The Commission presented its proposal for a new inter-institutional agreement on a mandatory Transparency Register for interest representatives covering the Parliament, Council and the Commission in 2016. More information can be found on the dedicated EP webpage.