Bills of 200 and 500 euros. Photo by Pixabay

Qatargate: lobby watchdog says the European Parliament needs to close all loopholes

EU lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has warned that the proposals by the President of  European Parliament in response to the Qatar-Morocco scandal are inadequate, leave the gate half-open, and don’t come close to ensuring there will be no future scandals. Some of the proposed reforms are promising: the ban on so-called friendship groups with third countries; revolving door rules for MEPs and the obligation for all MEPs to disclose meetings. 

But far more is needed to prevent interference in decision-making by repressive regimes: legislation obliging foreign governments and their lobby representatives to publish contracts - a EU-wide Foreign Agents’ Registration Act - as already exists in Australia and the US. This requires real oversight and enforcement. New ethics rules are also needed to block lobby consultancies and others from working for repressive regimes that violate human rights.

Stronger checks on the information that lobbyists disclose in the Transparency Register is long overdue, but the register rules themselves are inadequate and the register must become legally binding to enable effective sanctions.

Crucially, Metsola’s proposals are weak on the issue of enforcement of Parliament ethics rules. This requires a strong role for independent ethics experts instead of failing self-policing by MEPs. 

December’s scandal - which saw trunks and bags of cash released by the Belgian police after five MEPs were found to have taken direct bribes from both repressive regimes - was a stark reminder of the failure of lobby regulations in EU institutions.

The EU Parliament’s response is a start, but much more needs to be done. 

Olivier Hoedeman, Coordinator of Corporate Europe Observatory, said: 

“Whilst this proposal by the European Parliament is a welcome start to regulate lobbying by repressive regimes in the EU, it remains just that: a start.

We need more than interim measures. We need a robust set of lobbying rules, properly enforced. This proposal misses the mark on key ethics issues, and of course without robust  enforcement, all of these measures risk being rendered meaningless.” 

ENDS

For more information please contact:

Olivier Hoedeman, Coordinator of CEO:  ( + 32 474 486545), olivier@corporateeurope.org 

Lucy Hall, Press Officer: ( + 44 7908 481895), lucy.hall@corporateeurope.org

Notes to the editor:

  1. In the early stages of the scandal, Corporate Europe Observatory compiled the demands the group has tabled over the years, all of which are highly relevant today.
  1. Since 2015, Corporate Europe Observatory has warned against repressive regime lobbying in the EU institutions. The first report in the series looked at Kazakhstan and Russia, among others. Page 53 has a case study on Qatari lobbying. More recent cases studies are here: 1, 2, 3