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Transparency challenge to MEPs

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LobbyCal, MEPs, transparency, Greens/EFA, Molly Scott CatoNew Year challenge for MEPs to be open and transparent about contacts with lobbyists.

Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has launched a New Year challenge to her fellow South West MEPs, calling on them to be open and transparent about their lobbying contacts.

Scott Cato is one of 50 Green MEPs who is using a new open-source tool, which takes information from MEPs’ calendars, and publishes the information on their websites the day after the lobby meeting takes place.

The information allows all citizens to see who Green MEPs are meeting, when they are meeting them, and what is talked about.

The Green/European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament is committed to lobbying transparency and is the first political group in the European Parliament to automatically publish information about meetings held with lobbyists and interest representatives such as civil society organisations.

The Green/EFA group developed LobbyCal on the initiative of MEP Julia Reda, from Germany’s Pirate Party and in collaboration with Transparency International.

It allows all citizens to see who Green MEPs are meeting, when they are meeting them, and what is talked about with outside stakeholders.

This was one of the promises made by many of of the Green/EFA group’s MEPs before the European elections.

The European Commission is late in delivering on its promise to propose a mandatory lobby register that would apply also to the Council of the European Union.

And the Commission’s current transparency measures only cover around 1-3 per cent of its staff: for example, none of the lead negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are covered by the transparency requirements.

The lack of balance in the meetings held by the European Commission still needs to be tackled, data analysis by leading NGOs has revealed that about 75 per cent of the Commission’s high-level meetings with lobbyists are actually with industry representatives, and mostly with very large companies and multinationals.

And Molly Scott Cato is challenging MEPs from other political parties to be equally transparent on their meetings with lobbyists.

“My primary responsibility is to represent my constituents in the South West and their needs for a safer, healthier and more prosperous society,” she said.

“I hope that my contacts with various stakeholders reflects this.

“But the important point is, anyone can now find out who I have met with and why and make their own judgement.

“I challenge my fellow MEPs to be as open and transparent about who they meet with and the purpose of their meetings.”

The Greens are the first group in the European Parliament to automatically publish information about meetings held with lobbyists and other stakeholders such as civil society organisations.

The European Parliament’s own initiative report on transparency, accountability and integrity was drafted by Green rapporteur Sven Giegold.

The draft was opened for public consultation via an online web platform, and it was presented to the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) committee of the European Parliament on 3 December.

The deadline for amendments as well as the votes in AFCO and plenary will follow in 2016.

“At present lobbyists are all considered equivalent, so that somebody from the financial services sector is treated the same way as a representative from a membership organisation focused on improving the environment,” Scott Cato continued.

“I have chosen to meet mainly with groups dedicated to improving their communities rather than those lobbying on behalf of corporations who are working to inflate their profits.

“I am sure the public would like to see which lobbyists other MEPs meet as well.”

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