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Diana's work in improving Transparency in the European Parliament

Transparency and Lobbying in the European Institutions

As Vice President of the European Parliament with specific responsibility for transparency, Diana has for some time been involved in negotiations with the European Commission to put in place a transparent system of dealing with the growing number of lobbyists in Brussels. In June 2011, we saw the successful culmination of these negotiations with the launching of the joint lobby register called the "Transparency Register".

Part of the reason that the register took a while to negotiate was of course that everyone has a different take on who is a lobbyist and who isn't. Is there a world of difference between a representative of an NGO fighting for a better environment and a commercial lobbyist? How about the Church representatives; and what about regional representatives? The result of this long and heated debate was a neat categorization that could, in the end, satisfy everybody, with a clear division between commercial and non commercial interests. And of course a new name for the lobby register was necessary; it became the Transparency Register.

The European Parliament now has a leading position amongst European national parliaments with its joint lobby register for the Commission and the Parliament, which was welcomed by the most recognised professional lobby organisations in Brussels. Alongside clarifying who they are and their policy interests, lobbyists also have to disclose an amount of financial information, although there is always room to develop this aspect further.

Most importantly, lobbyists have to respect a specific code of conduct, which in case of a breach will lead to a denial of access to the European institutions and of course adverse publicity. For more information about how registered interest representatives access the Parliament's buildings, please see here.

WORK TO BE DONE

A first and hugely important step to prove that the UK is serious about tackling concerns around lobbying, would be to shine a transparent light on the activities of national ministers involved in European policy and law making when they attend European Council meetings. As yet, the Council has declined to join the EU joint Register, and is currently considering observer status. This needs to change, and the UK could help to spur that change in the wake of the circumstances of the ministerial departure of Liam Fox.

At the same time this Parliament will have to continue to work towards a mandatory system. We will not be able to introduce legislation on this until we have the Council on board. In the first instance the achievements of our voluntary system are considerable - with over 4000 registrants this register can be taken seriously. For up to date statistics, see here.

Until the Council joins the register we can only encourage good practice. And as with all things that start off cumbersome, transparency is merely a question of good habit. In my own office, my policy is to politely decline to meet any lobbyist who does not register and to keep a record of my own legislative footprint whenever I am rapporteur or shadow rapporteur. I know that more and more MEPs from the UK are doing the same. Watching the events unroll in the UK last year taught us a lesson, but when will British MPs start to learn from their European counterparts?

The EU's so called transparency register came into force on 23rd June 2011. A transition period will last until June 2012 to allow registrants to sign up to the new system. Reports will then be drawn up on an annual basis, to review the workings of the register. A joint team made up of staff from the Parliament and the Commission work together to administer the register, and deal with its new complaint mechanism.

Read Diana's draft Opinion on Lobbying

The European Commission Transparency Initiative page
Website of Commissioner responsible for negotiations on the Transparency Register, Maros Sefcovic

Access to Documents

Article 1 of the EU Treaty states that "decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen." This is supplemented by a number of provisions, including Article 25(1) of the EC Treaty which ensures that "any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents", subject to certain defined exceptions. In 2001, the Parliament and Council adopted a Regulation which sets out the right of access in more details. This Regulation is currently undergoing a review process following the publication of a Green Paper by the Commission.

Diana Wallis, as Vice President responsible, takes part in an annual meeting of the interinstitutional committee on access to documents set up under Article 15 of Regulation 1049/2001. It is the Commission's turn to call this meeting in 2011.

Read Regulation 1049/2001 regulating the right of access to documents

Read the Commission's Green Paper on Public Access to Documents

Read the Commission's recast proposal for Regulation 1049

List of documents related to a hearing in the LIBE Committee on 2 June 2008

Search for a document in the European Parliament's official register

Search for a document in the Commission's official register

Search for a document in the Council's official register

Historical Archives

Click here to access Diana's page on the opening of Parliament's archives

Contact details for the Parliament's Archives and Documentation Center (Luxembourg)

Correlation Tables

Diana Wallis has long fought for "correlation tables". These should be sent by Member States when transposing Community directives, so as to ensure transparency and to make the Commission's watchdog task possible. So far, such clauses are systematically deleted at the request of the Council during the codecision procedure. It is however noteworthy that the Environmental Crime Directive, agreed in first reading last month, contains an obligation to produce correlation tables (see Article 9(2) : "Member States shall communicate to the Commission the text of the main provisions of national law which they adopt in the field covered by this Directive and a correlation table between those provisions and this Directive").

Click here to see Parliament's first reading of the Environmental Crime Directive

ALDE Transparency Campaign

Citizens' Summaries

Following several opinions and reports drafted by Diana and approved by the Parliament, Commissioner Wallstrom committed the Commission to implement such tables. The matter is largely unresolved, although certain parts of the Commission produce summaries (although not forming part of legislation).

One of the recommendations of the Equitable Life Inquiry report (adopted by the European Parliament on 19 June 2007) reads:

"The committee stresses the importance of improving citizens' understanding of EC legislation and therefore calls for the introduction in all legislative proposals of executive or citizens' summaries, as used in some Member States1, which, although devoid of any legal effects, would form part of the act itself and constitute a non-technical explanation destined to citizens and other interested parties (...)."

Read a related publication from the Plain Language Commission

26 June: Read the Commission's citizens' summary on the European Private Company Statute

Read a recent document entitled "Citizens' Summary" released by DG Competition