Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hush-Hush & Sweep it under the Rug: EU's latest 'transparency' move

Last week EUObserver reported an interesting story (here) about the EU Commission efforts to keep transparency at bay.

Per EUObserver report: "New rules on public access to EU documents have prompted one of the European Commission's key departments to circulate a memo warning officials to be careful about what they write in emails and advising them on how to narrowly interpret requests for information. The 15-page handbook was circulated in January to officials working in the commission directorate for trade, one of the EU's most important policy areas affecting millions of people both within and beyond the bloc.

"Each official must be aware that all his/her documents, including meeting reports and e-mails can potentially be disclosed. You should keep this in mind when writing such documents. This is particularly the case for meeting reports and emails with third parties (e.g. industry)," reads the memo.

It asks officials... to avoid making references to informal contacts, such as meals or drinks, with lobbyists. "Don't refer to the great lunch you have had with an industry representative privately or add a PS asking if he/she would like to meet for a drink." [Hold it, folks - wouldn't such a PS qualify as a solicitation of a payoff in the first place?] The document also tips off officials on how to narrow down the interpretation of a request for information. It points to a past example where a request referred to DG trade meetings with individual companies, meaning the department could avoid making public its contacts with business lobbyists."

Well, there is more the EUObserver report worth reading, but what is absolutely clear is that the EU Commission has absolutely no interest in following the spirit of the disclosure rules, preferring instead to bend the rule-book in order to conceal the extent, nature and effectiveness of lobbyists, as well as to cover up its own governance practices.

Of course, one solution to this problem is to make all information concerning EU public - including the so-called commercially-sensitive one. Taxpayers must be allowed to know who was bidding on which projects, how these bids were evaluated and judged and how the bidding companies spent their lobbying money. This will include a transparent and complete list of lobbying organizations, bureaucrats diaries and other information that can assist us, the taxpayers, in determining who dined with whom, when, why and at whose expense.

In fact, they should also be required to post the actual bills paid - in my humble opinion, if MEPs claim expenses on things like meals and entertainment, I would like to know how many lobsters were eaten in Brussels on the back of my taxes... wouldn't you?

And let's apply the same principles to our local politicians and officials...


Neil said...

Hi Constantine,

Sorry but this has nothing whatsoever to do with your post. I was looking for your expert opinion on the ESB's plans to create 4000 new jobs and spend €22bn in developing our electricity which was welcomed by the opposition.

So we know the costs but what about the benefits and how does it stack up with alternative energy investments eg. coal, nuclear etc?



TrueEconomics said...

Hi Neil, a good point - had a very busy day today (and the next 7 days look set to be even busier), but belatedly - see the latest post with a comment on ESB... "Time to dump some bad risk? and ESB's rip-off 'investment'.
Best, C.