Chancellor Merkel letter from MEPs on transparency

Sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin,

We, the lobby watchdogs Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl along with a cross-party group of 92 Members of the European Parliament, are writing in advance of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU, to urge you to boost transparency of decision-making in the Council, to prioritise lobby transparency, and to end privileged access to decision-makers.

Undoubtedly the coronavirus pandemic, and the policy responses to it, will dominate the German Presidency. At the same time, the climate crisis becomes ever more urgent. We are united in calling for an EU coronavirus recovery package based on social justice, solidarity among nations, and green stimulus which truly puts sustainability at its heart.

But we are equally united in calling for a Presidency which delivers the highest standards of transparency and accountability. Now, more than ever, the transparency of decision-making and lobbying in both Brussels and Berlin is vital at a time when industry lobbyists are demanding bailouts and deregulation, and difficult decisions are to be made about the winners and losers of postcoronavirus recovery programmes.

You will undoubtedly be aware that the Council of the EU is often referred to as a “black box”. As repeatedly pointed out by the European Ombudsman,1 the European Parliament,2 and civil society organisations,3 the Council does not permit adequate transparency and scrutiny of its legislative deliberations, including among its more than 150 preparatory bodies. It has repeatedly failed to join the EU’s lobby transparency register, while the lobby transparency provided by the 27 member states national governments is patchy at best. This situation does a massive disservice to EU citizens.

We urge you to implement the following:

 Prioritisation of legislative transparency in Council policy-making. We find it unacceptable that Council working parties do not consistently produce minutes of meetings, and that negotiating positions of the member states are neither systematically recorded, nor made public. It seems irrefutable to us that citizens are entitled to know how their member state government participates at the Council. We hope that your Presidency will introduce good practice in this area, by proactively publishing Presidency minutes of working party meetings, including negotiating positions, and securing agreement for this practice to be continued into the future. Documents relating to legislative files and trilogues should be proactively published, with the LIMITE classification used as the exception rather than the rule. We are aware that the German Government has yet to formally support the initiative to boost legislative transparency which is led by the Netherlands and supported by nine other member states, and we urge you to sign-up immediately.4

 Prioritisation of lobby transparency in the Council and in Berlin. We urge you to champion a reformed EU transparency register during the ongoing inter-institutional negotiations, toinclude the participation of the Council of the EU and all permanent representations.We welcome the fact that the German Permanent Representative and his Deputy now proactively publish a list of their lobby meetings. However, this list likely reflects only a small
percentage of the overall number of lobby meetings held by German officials in Brussels, and should be rapidly expanded to cover all meetings with lobbyists. We note that during the 2019 Finnish Presidency its Government published a list of all ministerial meetings with lobbyists on EU matters. Until the Federal Government is able to create its own domestic lobby transparency register, this good practice should be followed.

 The German Government must urgently adopt new rules and a new culture to prevent excessive corporate influence on its EU Presidency and beyond. Member state governments must ensure that the public interest is centre-stage at all times when it comes to access to ministers and officials. The lack of legislative transparency in the Council advantages corporate lobby groups with the resources and networks to be able to gather the information themselves, and this must urgently change.

 Refuse all corporate sponsorship of the German Presidency. The sponsorship of the current Croatian Presidency, and previous Presidencies, by automotive, fossil fuel, and beverage companies, some of whom have an active interest in influencing EU decision-making, is politically damaging. It is disappointing that the German Presidency has nonetheless signed some sponsorship contracts aiming to promote “regional interests” for its Presidency.5 The Government must cancel all existing contracts for corporate sponsorship for its own Presidency, and initiate a process in the Council to ban the practice for all future Presidencies.

The German Presidency comes at a critical moment for the EU and its citizens. There cannot be a more appropriate time to prioritise transparency, accountability, and public-interest decisionmaking.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible regarding these proposals.

mit ausgezeichneter Hochachtung.

Corporate Europe Observatory
LobbyControl

Alice Kuhnke MEP
Alviina Alametsä MEP
Anja Hazekamp MEP
Anna Cavazzini MEP
Anna Donáth MEP
Aurore Lalucq MEP
Bas Eickhout MEP
Birgit Sippel MEP
Brando Benifei MEP
Christel Schaldemose MEP
Ciarán Cuffe MEP
Clare Daly MEP
Claude Gruffat MEP
Cornelia Ernst MEP
Damian Boeselager MEP
Damien Carême MEP
Daniel Freund MEP
Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP
Domènec Ruiz Devesa MEP
Eleonora Evi MEP
Erik Marquardt MEP
Francisco Guerreiro MEP
Giorgos Georgiou MEP
Grace O’Sullivan MEP
Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield MEP
Heidi Hautala MEP
Helmut Scholz MEP
Henrike Hahn MEP
Idoia Villanueva Ruiz MEP
Isabel Santos MEP
Jakop Dalunde MEP
Javier Nart MEP
Jutta Paulus MEP
Katalin Cseh MEP
Kateřina Konečná MEP
Kathleen Van Brempt MEP
Katrin Langensiepen MEP
Kim van Sparrentak MEP
Kira Peter-Hansen MEP
Konstantinos Arvanitis MEP
Lara Wolters MEP
Leila Chaibi MEP
Malin Björk MEP
Manon Aubry MEP
Manu Pineda MEP
Manuel Bompard MEP
Marc Angel MEP
Marc Botenga MEP
Marcel Kolaja MEP
Margrete Auken MEP
María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop MEP
Maria Noichl MEP
Marianne Vind MEP
Marie Toussaint MEP
Markéta Gregorová MEP
Martin Schirdewan MEP
Martina Michels MEP
Michael Bloss MEP
Michèle Rivasi MEP
Mick Wallace MEP
Miguel Urbán Crespo MEP
Mikuláš Peksa MEP
Monika Vana MEP
Mounir Satouri MEP
Nico Semsrott MEP
Niels Fuglsang MEP
Niklas Nienaß MEP
Nikolaj Villumsen MEP
Özlem Demirel MEP
Pär Holmgren MEP
Pascal Durand MEP
Patrick Breyer MEP
Paul Tang MEP
Pernando Barrena MEP
Petra De Sutter MEP
Petros Kokkalis MEP
Philippe Lamberts MEP
Ramona Strugariu MEP
Raphaël Glucksmann MEP
Rasmus Andresen MEP
Sarah Wiener MEP
Saskia Bricmont MEP
Sira Rego MEP
Stelios Kouloglou MEP
Sven Giegold MEP
Tanja Fajon MEP
Terry Reintke MEP
Thomas Waitz MEP
Tiemo Wölken MEP
Tilly Metz MEP
Tineke Strik MEP
Victor Negrescu MEP


1 European Ombudsman. Summary of the decision in strategic inquiry OI/2/2017/TE on the transparency of the Council legislative process. May 2018. https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/summary/en/94906

2 Jo Leinen. Yana Toom. Final report on the Ombudsman’s strategic inquiry OI/2/2017 on the transparency of legislative discussions in the preparatory bodies of the Council of the EU. Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
Committee on Petitions. January 2019. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P8-
TA-2019-0045&language=EN&ring=A8-2018-0420

3 Corporate Europe Observatory. Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests.
February 2019. https://corporateeurope.org/capturedstates

4 Permanent Representation of the Netherlands. Non paper – Increasing transparency and accountability of the EU.
January 2020. https://www.permanentrepresentations.nl/permanent-representations/pr-eu-brussels/documents/
publications/2019/06/18/non-paper—transparency-and-accountability. At the time of writing, the full list of
supporting member states are: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia,
Sweden and the Netherlands.

5 Outcome of proceedings of Working Party on Information meeting of 31 January 2020.
https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/council_presidency_sponsorship

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