Crystal clear ?

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Although the suspense surrounding the election of the next President of the European Parliamentis as unbearable as that of (bad) Hollywood action movie, we have played the democratic game and asked the three candidates to the presidency on their vision of transparency and their commitments in this field…

… Or have we tried to since only one of them, Diana Wallis (ALDE), answered to our questions. Nor Nirj Deva (ECR) neither Martin Schulz (S&D) took the time to tell us more on their position regarding transparency issues and ethics within the Parliament and broadly speaking EU institutions.

Mr Schulz, the president to be elected, is not the last one to deplore the so called “democratic deficit”of the EU and the existing gap between the citizens and EU institutions [1]; yet his non answer leaves us dubious on his real commitment as EP President regarding transparency and ethics within EU institutions.

More than words – or their absence (we know that candidates are assiled by request during their campaigns) – the acts of the upcoming EP President will be what make it possible for us to measure his commitment towards transparency and, even more, European democracy. In this respect, there are several the challenges on the agenda of this second term, from the implementation fo the MEPs Code of Conduct to the access to EU official documents to name but two current issues, and we will be extremely sharp in monitoring them.

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Diana Wallis (ALDE)

We thus have asked three questions on transparency and ethics within EU institutions to the three candidates. Here are the   Nous avons donc posé aux candidats à la présidence du Parlement européen trois questions sur la transparence et l’éthique au sein des institutions de l’UE. Voici donc les réponses de Diana Wallis (ALDE), MM. Schulz et Deva n’ayant pas répondu à nos sollicitationsDo you consider that the European Parliament is a sufficiently transparent institution and why?

Despite the cash for amendments scandal, or perhaps because of it, 2011 was a good year for Transparency in the European Parliament.  Thanks to the new Code of Conduct for MEPs, which came into force on Jan 1st 2012, the European Parliament is set to become an example for other European national Parliaments. Only yesterday [12/01/2012 - Editor’s note] I was approached by Estonians who are speaking about following our lead. The outgoing President Jerzy Buzek, and myself, were among other MEPs sat on a specific working group, determined to use the best examples across Europe as a model for our new Code of Conduct. An overwhelming 619 MEPs voted for this in December 2011 (with only 2 votes against).

(See: EP Rules of Procedure)

Other legislatures in Europe are also looking to our lead on the joint Transparency Register with the European Commission, established in June 2011. This register is growing in strength despite its nature as a voluntary system. The Council is the missing institution, and we have to put pressure on them to join in during the Danish Presidency.

(See website of EP & EC joint register for Brussels-based interest representatives)

The European Parliament has perhaps to be more innovative than other institutions when it comes to transparency, in order to take account of its special nature and legal status. It has proved with the above cases to be an institution that can make changes in the right direction when needed.

As a president, which measure(s) would you take so as to increase transparence and ethics within the European Parliament?

Open up the decision making in the Parliament Bureau – making agendas and other documents available to MEPs ahead of the meetings, and summaries of decisions straight after the meetings. This would help to dismiss the apparent secrecy that shrouds internal decision making and job appointments.

Allow MEPs to debate the issue of the Parliament’s seat.

Publish a list of members of the President’s cabinet, and appoint specific staff to respond to the Members of this House.

Remain an accessible President who eats breakfast in the canteen, and goes to group meetings and committee meetings regularly.

Transparency is linked to participation, to ensure the possibility of involvement of citizens in the European policy making process. Therefore I want to ensure that Parliament has a higher presence and visibility in all of the Member States and not just in the corridors of government. I would want to focus ‘official’ visits on the essential, but to use each one also to meet with citizens groups and to highlight the impact of EU legislation on daily life.

I would challenge each of our policy committee to hold one hearing or meeting a year in another Member State so that our work is more understood.

I also want to see a step change in our relationship with national parliaments, this should become a natural issue by issue working relationship, where together we can much more effectively hold the executive to account, be it the Commission or national governments.

These are just an example of my ideas coming from 5 years experience as a Vice President of Parliament.

More generally, how could the EU improve transparency among its institutions and functioning?

The key issue is to get the Council and the member states to open up their decision making process more and to join the Transparency Register, that would be a key goal. Overall I would like to see 2013 the Year of the European Citizen truly galvanise our efforts to show that being a European bring added value, bring real benefits and is a place where everyone can have influence on the big transnational issues through the European Parliament.

[1] http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,626815-2,00.html

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