A comprehensive and innovative set of proposals to boost the transparency, accountability and integrity of the EU institutions has been adopted by the European Parliament today.

Central to the report were ways to curb the influence of powerful lobbies, which have long enjoyed privileged access to the decision-making process in Brussels.

The GUE/NGL group backed efforts to establish an independent ethics committee, a ‘legislative footprint’ obligation for those involved in the process of drafting EU legislation, and a cooling-off period for former MEPs. A code of conduct for EU institutions and bodies has also been put forward.

Citizens, meanwhile, will have better access to legislative documents and whistleblowers will be given greater protection.

It is hoped that giving more powers to citizens would also lead to renewed societal interest in the EU decision-making process.

Although MEPs from the conservative and liberal groups in the Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) attempted to weaken the final text, today’s vote also rejected amendments that attempted to restrict funding to NGOs that don’t agree with the current policy objectives of the European Union.

Reacting to the vote, GUE/NGL Shadow on the report, Helmut Scholz, comments:

“This is a major step towards greater transparency in European policy-making. While it has been an almost two-year struggle at the Parliament in pursuing a consistent and timely response on greater transparency and accountability, it has been worthwhile.”

“Along with the Rapporteur from the Greens, we at GUE/NGL wanted to clarify and identify all those who seek to influence the decision-making process at EU level and what sort of rules should be imposed on the EU institutions themselves.

“With this vote, the Parliament is now equipped with a clear position and majority. I'm pleased that lobbyists will now have to meet higher standards and be more transparent in accessing EU policy-making, as well as the fact that the revolving-door between representing citizens and representing big business interests for European Union officials will remain closed for longer periods of time. It is particularly important that Parliament itself is also subject to higher obligations.

However, Scholz gave a word of caution regarding the challenges these legislative proposals still face, both within Brussels and beyond:

“We must now ensure that the public remains conscious of our commitments to greater transparency and integrity, and that these standards are anchored in the proposed inter-institutional agreement between the three EU institutions.” 

“In addition, we must ensure the German federal government and its partners in the Council do not find ways to undermine these agreements. As we have learned from the banking crisis and Dieselgate, they have a history of doing that at every turn,” he concluded.

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