Why do all lobbyists hate

Lobbying: Manfred Weber has a transparency problem

Shortly before the European elections, the EU Parliament asks itself the crucial question: How are you with transparency? At the end of January, the EU Parliament will vote on whether leading parliamentarians will have to disclose meetings with lobbyists in the future. The European People's Party, to which the CDU and CSU belong, could torpedo an agreement at the last minute. Because the members of parliamentary group leader Manfred Weber want to vote secretly on the new transparency rule.

What it's about: On January 31st, the 750 members of the EU Parliament will vote on new procedural rules. The constitutional committee prepared the draft and added a rule in a close vote in December. According to this, MEPs should only meet lobbyists who are listed in the EU's transparency register. A strict disclosure requirement is to apply to committee chairmen and members of parliament who write draft legislation. You must publish all scheduled meetings on the Internet, says Article 11a of the report.

However, the conservatives in parliament do not like that. According to a report by the news website Politico, the European People's Party decided at an internal meeting to force a secret vote on the new transparency rules. 20 percent of the MPs in the plenary are enough for this, so the conservatives can decide on their own. Secret votes are rare: Members of the European Parliament almost always stand by their names for their decisions.

CDU politician: Transparency is nonsense

The CDU MP Rainer Wieland, among others, pushed for the secret ballot. The duty to disclose meetings with lobbyists is "nonsense" and a "wrong decision", said Wieland in a telephone conversation with netzpolitik.org: "When that happens, I will not make a single report."

The matter is inconvenient for Manfred Weber. The CSU politician is not only the leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, but also their top candidate across Europe. In the European elections, Weber is campaigning for more transparency, at least that's what it says on his campaign website. But Weber is silent about the approaching vote. Despite several inquiries from his press spokesman, the top candidate did not want to comment on netzpolitik.org.

Officially, Weber's European People's Party (EPP) has not yet decided whether it will vote for or against the new procedural rules. But a secret ballot gives their MPs the opportunity to decide for their own interests without the voters having to find out about it in the European elections. A rejection of the procedural rules thus seems likely.

Head shaking from NGOs and other political groups

Lobby guards shake their heads at this. "It is completely incomprehensible how a political group that advocates more transparency in public acts exactly the opposite," said Vitor Teixeira of Transparency International. "Citizens have a right to know how their politicians vote."

Other groups also criticize this. "When the EPP requests a secret ballot, the question arises whether the parliamentary group is afraid of its own voters," said SPD MP Jo Leinen to netzpolitik.org.

"It is a bitter irony that a secret vote is to be held on transparency," said the Green MP Sven Giegold. “The MPs should give their opinion in a roll-call vote. A secret vote on transparency would be a farce that calls into question the reputation of the European Parliament. "

Lobby battle over digital issues

The European Parliament has been a playground for lobbyists for years. Copyright reform, for example, is hotly contested. Companies like Youtube and Spotify are on the one hand, music labels and other rights holders on the other. Billions of dollars are at stake for both sides. In the race among stakeholders, the consumer's voice becomes practically inaudible.

Rules for the disclosure of lobby meetings already apply to the EU Commission. They make it clear how much influence the corporations have in Brussels.

The Internet companies are particularly powerful in Brussels: According to an analysis by Transparency International, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have pushed their way into the top five of the most active lobbying companies in the EU. Since 2014, the EU Commission has had more lobby meetings on digital issues than on any other topic. In the next few years, lobby races for tougher data protection rules, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars can be expected.

The imbalance between the power of companies and consumers can be seen in data protection: In the ePrivacy reform, the EU Commission met around ten times more company lobbyists than representatives of its customers, data protectionists and consumer associations. Transparency helps to make the imbalance visible. But this path is now apparently willfully blocked by the inaction of parliamentary group leader Manfred Weber.

Would you like more critical reporting?

Our work at netzpolitik.org is financed almost exclusively by voluntary donations from our readers. With an editorial staff of currently 15 people, this enables us to journalistically work on many important topics and debates in a digital society. With your support, we can clarify even more, conduct investigative research much more often, provide more background information - and defend even more fundamental digital rights!

You too can support our work now with yours Donation.

About the author

Alexander Fanta

As the Brussels correspondent of netzpolitik.org, Alexander reports on the digital policy of the European Union. He writes about new laws and does investigative research on large technology companies and their lobbying. He is co-author of the study "Medienmäzen Google" on the group's journalism funding. In 2017 Alexander was a fellow at the Reuters Institute for Journalism Research at Oxford University, where he researched automation in journalism. Before that he was a foreign policy journalist for the Austrian news agency APA. E-mail:[email protected] (PGP). Twitter:@FantaAlexx. WhatsApp / Threema: +32483248596.
Published 01/17/2019 at 10:56 am