EU money & politics

The influence of money on politics is one of the key corruption risks in developed economies. This is true both at national and EU level. Despite a number of promising transparency reforms by the Juncker Commission, the full spectrum of EU policy and decision-making remains opaque. One of the most important EU decision-making bodies, the Council of the EU, has made few concessions to transparency, remaining apart from initiatives to improve lobby transparency and blocking reform to access to documents regulations. Addressing these and more fundamental accountability gaps in an effort to make the Union more responsive to direct citizen input will require wide-ranging changes, including to founding treaties. Furthermore, Transparency International EU’s assessment of corruption risks in the EU institutions has shown that despite a sophisticated regulatory and institutional framework, crucial areas such as conflicts of interest safeguards in the legislative process have been undermined by poor practice.

  • Lobbying
  • Conflict of Interests
  • Revolving Doors
  • Council transparency
  • EU Economic Governance

About Lobbying

Brussels is the second capital of the world in terms of lobbying after Washington DC. At least 25,000 lobbyists work in Brussels with an annual budget of 1.5 billion euros. Lobbying is a part of any healthy democracy, but Transparency International works hard to ensure that lobbying activities are as transparent as possible and respect the rules of engagement. The European Commission has made a proposal for a mandatory EU Transparency Register in September 2016. Transparency International has long promoted a mandatory lobby register and now follows closely the negotiations between the Commission, Parliament and the Council.

Transparency International believes that full lobbying transparency is the foundation on which a more comprehensive integrity system should be built. To provide the basic transparency a well-functioning, mandatory register is necessary. But to limit undue influence by lobbying and to prevent conflicts of interest, additional integrity measures are needed. To further improve European democracy and ensure the best possible policy outcomes, the EU institutions should also make sure that all stakeholders have equal access to the decision-making process and all can provide their expertise and input. This would ultimately lead to better decisions and better laws for all European citizens. To ensure transparency, all input by stakeholders into the legislative process should be published in a legislative footprint.

Assessment of the European Commission proposal for a mandatory lobby register

Reply to the Commission consultation on the mandatory lobby register

2015 report on “Lobbying in Europe” 

2015 report on the Lobby meetings of the European Commission

Online tool EU Integrity Watch with real-time data tools on EU lobbying

Recommendations for ethical advocacy for lobbyists and our tool to publish lobby meetings called LobbyCal

Background paper on the “EU Legislative Footprint”

International Lobbying Standards

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About Conflict of Interests

Transparency International EU works hard to ensure that conflicts of interests in the EU decision-making process in all institutions are managed openly and effectively. This means that proper rules must be put in place to ensure that Members of the European Parliament, for example, do not have any conflicts of interest between their parliamentary activities and any side-jobs they might have outside of Parliament. Preventing conflicts of interest means that relevant office holders declare their financial interests and assets. These declarations can then be scrutinised and checked by the relevant oversight bodies as well as the public, civil society and the media. Finally, if conflicts of interest do occur or if Codes of Conduct are breached there need to be adequate institutions to investigate and sanction misbehavior. Conflicts of interest can occur with outside activities and previous jobs, but also through revolving door cases of members of parliament, Commissioners or civil servants taking up new jobs in the private sector.

Transparency International advocates for reforms of the European Parliament as well as the European Commission Codes of Conduct. We recommend that adequate cooling-off periods should be established for members of Parliament and those of Commissioners should be extended to three years. An independent body should oversee compliance and sanction where necessary.

For further details on our work on conflicts of interest:
Recommendations for the reform of the European Parliament Code of Conduct
Recommendations for the reform of the European Commission Code of Conduct
Online tool EU Integrity Watch with real-time data tool on outside incomes of members of the European Parliament

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About Revolving Doors

Brussels has seen a number of high-profile revolving door cases in the last years, including ex-Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs last year. The demand for policy insiders is high, particularly among lobby organisations.The exchange of knowledge, experience and personnel between the public and private sector can bring very positive results by providing a better understanding of how political decision-making works. However, the revolving door can also undermine trust in the EU, because of the potential for real or perceived conflicts of interests. It can reinforce the public perception that links between the EU institutions and big business are too close.

In early 2017, Transparency International EU has published a report analysing 512 former EU Commissioners and MEPs and their after-office employment. Today, more than 50% of ex-Commissioners and 30% of ex-MEPs who have left politics are working for organisations on the EU lobby register. The report shows that companies are employing former officials to gain access, influence and proximity to policy-making. For example, 50% of Google’s registered lobbyists used to work for the EU. 26 MEPs who left the European Parliament in 2014 are currently working for Brussels lobbying consultancies.

Transparency International calls for stronger post-employment rules for the Commission and the Parliament. Longer cooling off periods, during which former public office holders are forbidden from engaging in lobbying activities as well as a well-resourced oversight system that can significantly limit the most adverse consequences of revolving door cases.

For further details on our work on revolving door:

2017 Report on the revolving door phenomenon
Recommendations for the reform of the European Parliament Code of Conduct
Recommendations for the reform of the European Commission Code of Conduct
Online tool EU Integrity Watch tool tracking post-employment activities of former Commissioners and MEPs

 

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About Council transparency

The Council of the European Union is the EU institution that represents the interests of the Member States.

It is not only one of the most powerful institutional actors in the EU legislative process but also the most opaque institution in Brussels. While in theory, the Council is on equal footing with the European Parliament, in practice it often has the final word on legislation and acts much like an upper chamber in other political systems. These Council proceedings, therefore, have wider implications of the democratic legitimately of the decision-making process. That is why we are working to increase the transparency and accountability of the Council.

For further details on our work on Council transparency:
– 2014 Report on the European Union integrity system
– 2016 case study on Council decision-making

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About EU Economic Governance

The euro crisis is far from over, and the European Commission has committed to putting forward proposals for the deepening of Economic and Monetary Union. It is crucial to ensure that this goes hand in hand with greater democratic legitimacy on the decisions that affect every euro in our pockets. Previous reforms have merely paid lip-service to transparency and accountability, confining the discussion of the real trade-offs to political haggling behind closed doors, rather than implementation of EU law.

If economic governance rules cannot be implemented, they should be changed. If economic institutions cannot govern in an open and accountable way, they should be reformed. This will remain a priority for the EU in general and the Eurozone in particular, including for Transparency International EU.

For further details on our work on EU economic governance:

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