Briefing: Take-aways from yesterday’s vote on transparency in the European Parliament

The Members of the European Parliament have voted yesterday to change their rules of procedure in an effort to make the parliamentary activity more efficient, but also more transparent (the Corbett report). However, the report was fiercely disputed and in some cases some MEPs opposed making the decisions more open to the public. Among the topics voted upon were the secrecy of voting, the second jobs of the MEPs and regulating the meetings with lobbyists.

There were around 400 amendments drafted to this report, so there are many interesting issues to look at. We have selected just a few for exemplification. Here is what we observed during the voting session:

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The votes for electing the President of the European Commission will remain secret. 

– MEPs rejected more transparency on the election of the President of the Commission. An amendment tabled by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs proposed to replace the secret vote with one by roll-call (which means recording how each MEP voted). While a simple majority of MEPs supported this proposal, this was not enough for it to pass, as a qualified majority (376) was needed: 364 MEPs voted in favour of the amendment, whereas 316 voted for the status quo;

– This proposal was opposed mainly by the EPP, as almost all of its members voted against it. Notable exceptions in the EPP were the Flemish Christian Democrats (Vandenkendelaere and Belet), as well as some Swedish (Adaktusson and Hökmark) and Polish members (Grzyb, Jazłowiecka and Saryusz-Wolski);

– Electing Commission President transparently was supported by most members of the following political groups: ALDE, ECR, ENF, EFDD, GUE-NGL;

-Notably, the former Spitzenkandidat for the Greens, Ska Keller (freshly elected co-chair of her group), voted in favour of the secret ballot (as did most of the German Greens, such as Sven Giegold, Jan Albrecht or Julia Reda). Also the Austrian Greens (including Ulrike Lunacek) voted for keeping this vote secret. Their defections from the line of the Greens group were just enough to make the difference: if they had voted in favour, the required majority of 376 votes would have been reached and the public would have seen in 2019 who votes in favor and against of the new Commission President;

– In S&D, the supporters of the secret ballot were the Germans and the Swedish (with the exception of Soraya Post). Even in GUE-NGL, most German members voted against the introduction of the roll-call vote.

Click here to see how all MEPs voted: (1)

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MEPs won’t be able to meet persons who are not in the transparency register

– This amendment narrowly reached the qualified majority needed (390 votes). Almost all MEPs from the EPP (the largest group in the Parliament) voted against the systematic use of this practice of meeting only persons registered in the transparency register. Opposing MEPs were concerned about potential limitations to the meeting between the Parliamentarians and their constituents. Among the few notable exceptions, some EPP MEPs from Belgium (Rolin, Belet and Vandenkendelaere) and Luxembourg (Bach, Reding) supported the amendment.

-Similarly, with very few exceptions, ALDE members voted against meeting only representatives featured in the transparency register.

-On the other hand, S&D, GUE-NGL, the Greens, EFDD and ECR supported the proposed stricter requirements.

– Within S&D, several German members abstained.

Click here to see how each MEP voted: (2)

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MEPs rejected the provisions requiring the publication of all meetings with interest representatives.

– The issue is very controversial, as it pits efficiency against transparency.

– Also in this case, a majority of MEPs supported the amendment, but it fell short of reaching the qualified majority needed for the approval of the changes (319 MEPs voted in favour, whereas 274 Parliamentarians voted against);

– EPP and ALDE opposed the initiative. Among the ALDE’s MEPs who did not follow the group’s line and supported the amendment there were two members of the Swedish Liberals: Jasenko Selimovic and Fredrick Federley;

– All the following political groups voted in favour of the online publication of all MEPs’ meetings: ECR, EFDD, GUE-NGL and Greens/EFA;

-S&D was split. Most of the members of three big delegations in S&D decided to abstain: the German Social Democrats, the Italian Democratic Party’s members and the UK’s Labour Party’s representatives;

– Instead, French and Swedish S&D members voted in favour of the proposal to make the information about MEPs’ meetings available;

Click here to see how all MEPs voted: (3).

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MEPs still allowed to hold second jobs, but they will not be able to work as lobbyists.

– The MEPs also updated the requirements for their declaration of financial interests. However, MEPs will not be obliged to disclose their clients for their other jobs. An amendment that was asking for adding the lists of their clients to the declaration of financial interests was rejected (231 MEPs in favour, 445 MEPs against it). The MEPs opposing invoked privacy concerns;

– Most members of the EPP, ALDE and S&D voted against the disclosure of the lists of clients;

– Swedish Liberals and French Socialists were among the national delegations who supported disclosing the lists of MEPs’ clients for other jobs;

– The amendment was also backed by the Greens, GUE-NGL, ENF and ECR (although British Conservative MEPs voted against the initiative):

– EFDD group did not support the amendment: UKIP’s members opposed the proposal, whereas the members of the 5 Star Movement abstained.

Click here to see how all MEPs voted: (4).

 For for information and media requests contact us at [email protected].

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