Finnish EU Presidency in pole position to overhaul EU transparency, as 97 EU Parliamentarians urge action
Almost 100 Members of the European Parliament have seized the momentum of the EU election countdown to improve the EU Council Presidency: In an open letter to Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, they demand lobby transparency be placed at the heart of the upcoming Finnish EU Presidency.
As the Finnish government gears up to take over the EU Presidency from the Romanian government on 1 July 2019, the cross-party group of MEPs expresses their grave concern about the opacity of the Council of the European Union, a veritable ‘black box’ which has been lagging far behind the Parliament and Commission on transparency provisions.
An issue that has attracted particular criticism in recent months, is the far-reaching corporate sponsorship of previous EU Council Presidencies. Aside from urging the Finnish government to refuse any such sponsorship, MEPs also want to see Finland establish such a ban for all future presidencies.
Other demands featured in the MEPs’ letter include the Council joining the EU Transparency Register; proactive publication of all lobby meetings held by the Finnish Permanent Representation in Brussels; the public release of all Council working party meeting minutes ( including negotiating positions); and a review of the practice of inviting lobbyists to address Council working party meetings. Hautala, Leinen, Schirdewan and their colleagues also hope to foster a wider public debate about ways to boost democracy and accountability in the Council as well as in the member state governments it represents.
Heidi Hautala MEP said: “The beginning of a new legislative term is the best time to set new, higher standards for transparency and accountability. Finland is in pole position to lead by example and take concrete action to increase openness within the EU.”
Jo Leinen MEP added: “In terms of transparency, the Council has a long way to catch up with Parliament and Commission. Citizens have a right to know who lobbies member state governments in the Council, which interests are represented, and who is financing the lobbying.”
Martin Schirdewan MEP noted: “The continuing lobbying power of big corporates at the EU level is outrageous. Especially the Council is a big black hole when it comes to transparency. It is high time it stepped up its game and became more accountable to EU citizens.”
Corporate Europe Observatory’s transparency campaigner Vicky Cann commented: “We need a big push on all fronts and especially in the Council to improve transparency and lobbying rules in the EU. 2019 is a year of massive change in the EU with a new European Parliament and Commission – it’s the perfect opportunity to boost lobby transparency. ”
Members of the European Parliament who have signed this letter are:
Heidi Hautala MEP, Jo Leinen MEP, Martin Schirdewan MEP
Sylvie Guillaume MEP – Lead European Parliament negotiator on the EU Transparency Register
Danuta Hübner MEP – Lead European Parliament negotiator on the EU Transparency Register
Marina Albiol Guzmán MEP, Martina Anderson MEP, Max Andersson MEP, Marie Arena MEP, Margrete Auken MEP, Xabier Benito Ziluaga MEP, Malin Björk MEP, Lynn Boylan MEP, Mercedes Bresso MEP, Klaus Buchner MEP, Matt Carthy MEP, Nessa Childers MEP, Jakop Dalunde MEP, Dennis De Jong MEP, Karima Delli MEP, Pascal Durand MEP, Stefan Eck MEP, Bas Eickhout MEP, Linnéa Engström MEP, Cornelia Ernst MEP, Luke Ming Flanagan MEP, Knut Fleckenstein MEP, Eleonora Forenza MEP, Eugen Freund MEP, Evelyne Gebhardt MEP, Sven Giegold MEP, Neena Gill MEP, Ana Gomes MEP, Tania González Peñas MEP, Ingeborg Grässle MEP, Anja Hazekamp MEP, Maria Heubuch MEP, Liisa Jaakonsaari MEP, Yannick Jadot MEP, Benedek Jávor MEP, Ramón Jáuregui Atondo MEP, Eva Joly MEP, Agnes Jongerius MEP, Rina Ronja Kari MEP, Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Kateřina Konečná MEP, Stelios Kouloglou MEP, Peter Kouroumbashev MEP, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri MEP, Kostadinka Kuneva MEP, Merja Kyllönen MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Philippe Lamberts MEP, Patrick Le Hyaric MEP, Paloma López Bermejo MEP, Florent Marcellesi MEP, Anne-Marie Mineur MEP, David Martin MEP, Marisa Matias MEP, Ana Miranda MEP, Norbert Neuser MEP, Liadh Ní Riada MEP, Maria Noichl MEP, Younous Omarjee MEP, Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP, Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, Kati Piri MEP, Julia Reda MEP, Evelyn Regner MEP, Michel Reimon MEP, Terry Reintke MEP, Michèle Rivasi MEP, Virginie Rozière MEP, Judith Sargentini MEP, Helmut Scholz MEP, Molly Scott Cato MEP, Ricardo Serrão Santos MEP, Birgit Sippel MEP, Jordi Solé MEP, Igor Šoltes MEP, Barbara Spinelli MEP, Bart Staes MEP, Paul Tang MEP, Marc Tarabella MEP, Josep-Maria Terricabras MEP, Yana Toom MEP, Helga Trüpel MEP, Miguel Urbán Crespo MEP, Ernest Urtasun MEP, Bodil Valero MEP, Monika Vana MEP, Marie-Pierre Vieu MEP, Thomas Waitz MEP, Julie Ward MEP, Martina Werner MEP, Babette Winter MEP, Gabriele Zimmer MEP.
Notes to editors
Read the full MEP letter to Finnish Prime minister Juha Sipilä here.
Finnish national elections will be held on 14 April 2019.
An in-depth report about EU member states channelling corporate interests into the Council of the European Union was recently published by Corporate Europe Observatory: “Captured states: When EU governments are a channel for corporate interests” is available here.
UPDATE 29 October: The Finnish Government replied to the MEP letter on 22 October 2019 and its response can be read here.
Emmi Riikonen, Communications Officer to MEP Heidi Hautala, firstname.lastname@example.org,+ 32 (0) 228 37518, + 32 (0) 491 630119
Jo Leinen MEP, email@example.com, +32 (0) 228 45842
Martin Schirdewan MEP, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 (0) 228 45667
Corporate Europe Observatory
Vicky Cann, email@example.com, +44 (0) 1494 864649