Thursday, 28 May 2009

EuroparlTV: How much lobbyism in the European Parliament?

On EuroparlTV, Dominika Pszczółkowska, Polish journalist and blogger writing the Poland in the EU blog, and Mariane Dony, professor at the Free University of Brussels, are discussing the role of the European Parliament, the amount of lobbyism MEPs are confronted with, and the changes in the salary scheme of MEPs.

It's not a big debate, but still worth watching - if not for the reflective atmosphere then maybe just to see a fellow blogger live and in action:

PS: Recommendation: Erik's very critical comment to this discussion.


Erik Wesselius said...

I watched the clip and found the debate about lobbying quite shallow.

It is certainly not true that the EP has good rules on lobbying or on conflicts of interests.

And the suggestion of Marianne Dony that different lobby groups cancel each other out is a rather worn-out way of defending the status quo (more or less unregulated lobbying) in Brussels while not acknowledging that the playing field between different interests (corporate lobbies vs public interest groups) is far from level and this does create serious problems for a well-functioning democracy at EU level.

The Parliament's rules on lobbyists are very limited and transparency is minimal (currently there is only a list of names of those holding access badges to the EP and the names of the company they work for, but not what clients they work for and how much money these clients are spending on influencing EU decisions).

The Commission started a voluntary lobbying transparency register, but a) it is voluntary, b) it doesn't contain names of lobbyists and c) due to a number of loopholes financial disclosure by those organisations that do register is very limited and messy. For more on this I refer to the first evaluation of the Commission's register, drawn up by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU).

Parliament and Commission have announced that they will join the two registers, which will bring some improvement as it will make it quasi-mandatory for organisations to register (if they need access badges to the EP buildings). But the qualitative problems of the register (especialy on financial disclosure) still have to be solved.

The Parliament also should improve its own rules of procedure. In the current Parliament several dozens of untransparent and unregulated business_MEP all party groups have been active, functioning as a toll for corporate lobbyists to have privileged access to MEPs. The frequent closed sessions of these business MEP groups can be used by business interests to massage the minds of MEPs participating in the lunches or dinners or whatever form the mind massage sessions take. Some examples are the European Parliament Financial Services Forum, which is run from the offices of the European Banking Federation or the Forum for Automobile and the Society runf from the offices of the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

I refer readers of your blog to and if they would like to learn more about the problematic aspects of lobbying and about what can be done on a practical level to ensure that the EU functions as a true democracy and not as a lobbycracy where specific interests are more important than citizens.

Julien Frisch said...

Thank you Erik!