A few hours away from the European Elections, Access Info invites for European citizens to elect their next representatives. Because well informed voting is crucial for our future, we evaluated the electoral programs of five countries in which the representation is high, for their transparency in European Union activities. Among these countries are: France, Germany, Italy, Spain (only available in Spanish), and the United Kingdom.
The methodology used is as follows:
- Thematic Choice: A number of transparency-related topics have been evaluated. Transparency of decision making within the EU institutions and in the processes are two of them. Legislative initiative, transparency in algorithms, trialogues, and commitment to improve citizen participation have also been considered in the first section. Regarding expense management evaluations include commitments such as better financial resource management in the European Union, transparency in EU funds and public procurement procedures, and the inclusion of anti-corruption measures (protection of whistleblowers included). Lastly, on lobbying matters, commitments to reach an effective lobby register, restriction of their activities, influence, and ethical controls, and clear rules about revolving doors and interest management were assessed.
- Political Party Selection: Those who have obtained a majority vote in the past or those who have a tendency of receiving the most votes according to diverse polls.
- Rating: For each topic, a rating from 0 to 3 has been awarded. 0 means there is no mention and 0.5 that the party briefly mentions the topic; 1 that something on the issue has been proposed but remained very general; 2 that a number of commitments have been made, although with no reference to the means to achieve them; and 3 is a pledge to completely realise initiatives on the matter.
|Institutions/ legislative power/ algorithms||Processes/ trilogues/ participation||More control/ accountability||EU funds/ pp||Anticorruption measures/ whistleblowing||Lobby registry||More restrictions/ ethics control||CoI/ Revolving doors|
|DE||Alternative für Deutschland||0||2||0||1||1||2||1||2||9|
|Bundis 90 Die Grunen||2||2||0||3||2||3||2||1||15|
|Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands||0||2||0||0||2||2||0||0||6|
|Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol||2||2||1||0||1||0||0||0||6|
|La France insoumise||1||3||0||0||1||2||1||1||9|
|La Republique en Marche||1||0||1||1||1||1||2||1||8|
|Movimento 5 stelle||0,5||0||0||0||0,5||0||0||0||1|
Alternative für Deutschland (AFD): 10.5 points have been awarded to AFD.
In particular, several proposals have been presented on lobbyism (2, 1 and 2). AFD demands a mandatory lobby register in which all contacts with lobbyists are published and made available to the public, and the establishment of concrete obligations and relative sanctions for all EU officials and employees. They also call for the unrestricted publication of MEPs and EU officials’ secondary activities, as well as a three-year cooling off period for politicians before being hired by banks or multi-nationals (revolving door principle).
This is strictly related to the anti-corruption measures they are proposing, since they aim to sanction bribery, corruption and subsidy fraud with automatic loss of both eligibility and ability to perform public office. 1 point awarded.
AFD pledges to improve the right to information for all European citizens too, making it ‘’unrestricted’’ and imposing the obligation to publish all the data generated in EU institutions as laid down in the Hamburg Transparency Act. For these reasons, 2 points on transparency of EU decision-making processes were awarded.
On transparency of funds, 1 point was awarded. They claim that budget support favours the waste of funds and that countries where corruption, nepotism and money mismanagement prevail should be excluded from development aid.
Bundis 90 Die Grunen: The German Greens indicate a number of different proposals to increase transparency within the European Union and win a total of 15 points.
On corruption and EU funds management, they state that transparency is one of the most effective ways to prevent tax fraud. They think that, among the powers of the Commission, there should be the possibility to deprive national governments of their control over EU funds in case of irregularities or inconsistencies. In addition, they intend to establish more and more controls on the legitimate use of the funds by the Member States, which could be achieved with a better cooperation with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The party also mentions the necessity to set up transparency rules for party funding and offer better protection mechanisms to whistleblowers. They advocate for the creation of a European law on whistleblowing, including the design of a European witness protection program and a greater defend of the right to anonymous and pseudonymous use of social media.
On procurement, they aim to increase the thresholds and improve the communication on the rules and the opportunities made available by the EU. They affirm that trainings in municipalities could strengthen their ability to understand and participate in the award procedure.
Thanks to all the aforementioned proposals, 3 points on transparency of EU funds and 2 points on anticorruption measures have been awarded.
On decision-making, the Greens pledge to make the EU processes more democratic, strengthening the Parliament and improving citizens’ opportunities for participation. On their opinion, the European Parliament should be able to decide on an equal footing with the Council and have a full right of legislative initiative, while citizens should be able to demand a reform of the EU treaties. 2+2 points awarded.
Another way to create a highest level of transparency is through a stronger control on lobbies. A binding lobby registers for all EU institutions, stricter cooling off periods and a “legislative footprint” that makes third party influence on EU legislation more verifiable are only few of the proposals of the green party. If elected, they will develop the existing regulation on public access to EU documents and transform it into a comprehensive EU transparency regulation (3, 2 and 1 points awarded on transparency of lobbying).
Die Linke: Die Linke’s score exceeds the Greens’ of 1 point only. Every transparency-related thematic has been mentioned by the party, except for the need for increasing accountability and control on EU expenses.
Concerning EU funds and corruption, Die Linke commits to increase public control and transparency of funding. They suggest to require public country-by-country reports by corporations, and to disclose information on the owners of companies, foundations and trusts in public registries. They also aim to criminalise bribery and ban donations from companies, lobbyists and private individuals to European political parties. 2 points on funds and 3 on anticorruption awarded.
With regard to lobbying, they regret the partial ‘’failure’’ of the current lobby register and propose to create a mandatory transparency register that could clarify the scope of lobby interventions and strengthen democratic control. The register should be binding, digitally readable, and available for both the EU and the Federal Republic. They finally intend to make public with which budget, on whose behalf and on which topic the lobbyists influence politics. On the revolving door principle, they call for a stricter waiting period for members of the European Commission, and for an appropriate regulation for senior officials. 3, 3 and 2 points awarded.
On decision-making, they highlight how the Lisbon Treaty has managed to significantly improve the democratic legitimacy of decision-making. There is a pledge to strength the democratic plurality of the Parliament against the power of the Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Council, and a commitment to reform and democratise those institutions. For example, by giving the European Parliament an unrestricted right of initiative. Lastly, a proposal to increase direct democracy has been included in the manifesto. In this view, a fully-fledged EU citizens legislation as well as the possibility to create a EU-wide referendum in case the Parliament rejects the citizens’ initiative is fostered.
Freie Demokraten (FDP): Freie Demokraten makes no reference to control of lobbies. On the other hand, few proposals were put forward on transparency of decision-making and EU expenses, for a total of 5 points.
Regarding transparency of the EU budget, the German party intends to review existing European laws and abolish outdated regulations, so as to lower the associated bureaucracy and avoid unnecessary expenses. The inclusion of “special budgets” and the abolition of discounts and corrections will make the Union more transparent and accountable. They also propose to scale down the EU Commission to a maximum of eighteen commissioners. 1 point awarded.
On corruption, they support the fight against tax evasion and suggest raising EU thresholds for public procurement. 1 point awarded.
On decision-making, FDP wants to increase democratic support and give the European Parliament full right of initiative. They pledge to make citizens involved and aware of the decisions taken by the European institutions as well as broadcasting live all meetings of the European Council, the Council of Ministers and all other EU intergovernmental bodies and publish the results of these meetings. There is a pledge to establish more digital forms of participation, especially by creating an electronic identity card for EU citizens, and a commitment to allow everyone to submit complaints to the EU bodies. At the same time, they will take into account online submissions before advancing reform proposals and will allow European citizens to vote on the new European Constitution in a joint European referendum. 2 points on transparency pf EU institutions and 1 point on transparency of processes awarded.
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD): Overall, 6 points were awarded to the SPD political manifesto.
In part 2 (Corporate Tax – Stop Tax Crime and Tax Dumping), the Social-Democrats pledge to fight tax evasion and increase transparency in tax matters. They propose to create the legal conditions for the country-by-country reports to be published, to create a special unit for tax matters such as in the UK, and to establish more severe punishments for dishonest tax reporting and liability. 2 points awarded.
In order to strengthen the European Parliament, they aim to ensure that the Parliament represents Europe’s diversity and to allow European people’s representatives to have legislative initiative (page 70). In the European legislative process, they want to enable civil society actors such as NGOs and youth associations to have transparent and equal opportunities, for proposing projects and initiatives. They are also in favour of the introduction of a stricter right of inquiry for the European Parliament. 2 points awarded.
On lobbyism, greater transparency through a binding lobby register for all EU institutions is needed. 2 points awarded.
Union CDU-CSU: There is only one reference to strengthen European democracy, promote transparency, and put Europe in the “hands of the people”. 1 point was therefore awarded with regard to transparency of decision-making processes.
La France Insoumise: 9 points have been awarded to La France Insoumise.
Section 1.4 explains how the party will reinforce the role of the European Parliament, especially increasing its control on the activities of the Commission and instituting it with legislative initiative powers. 1 point has therefore been awarded on transparency of EU institutions.
On transparency of decision-making processes, 3 points have been awarded. In Section 1.3 La France Insoumise proposes to increase transparency of debates in the Council and the Eurogroup as well as trilogues. At the same time, the party intends to increase citizen´s participation by promoting the European Citizens Initiative (ICE). A proposal on transparency of algorithms has finally been included in section 4.4.
On lobbying, section 1.3 advocates for a mandatory lobby register, limits on lobbying by companies found guilty of corruption, and prohibition of gifts for MEPs or Commissioners. High-level officials would be have a 10-year cooling off period before being able to work in banks or multi-nationals. Overall, 2, 1, and 1 points have been awarded with regard to lobby registry, ethics control, and mechanisms against the revolving door principle.
Lastly, on corruption, at page 5 La France Insoumise pledges to combat tax evasion and fiscal paradises. In Section 1.3 there is also a proposal to protect whistleblowers by rejecting the ‘directive sur le secret des affaires’ and proposing a directive to protect the right to information and to limit media concentration. 1 point has been awarded.
Le Republicains: In Le Republicains’s political manifesto there are no measures that would increase transparency of either EU institutions or lobbying. However, 2 points in total has been awarded on transparency of processes and transparency of expenditures.
With proposal #69, Le Republicains state that they will initiate a plan to fight the waste of public money within the European institutions. Although it is very clear, it leaves a lot of room for detail. 1 point awarded.
With proposal #70 and #71, they aim to transform the European Commission into a ‘Commission of projects’, with limited normative power. The Parliament and the Council will be instituted with legislative powers and become the real ‘democratic actors’ within the EU system. They also mention to make the decision-making ‘faster’ with proposal #72. Finally, there is a minor proposal (Proposal #75) to improve the ECI and make it more ‘transparent’, in this sense meaning accountability, including will make it obligatory for the EP to examine it.
Finally, proposal #25 refers to access to information, but only in the sense of requiring that all EU institutions and agencies produce material in French so that people have access to it in that language.
La Republique en Marche: To the political manifesto of La Republique En Marche has been given 8 points.
In terms of transparency of spending, there would be more control of spending of MEP expenses and a decrease in the number of the European Commissioners (page 25). Although transparency is not explicitly mentioned, 1 point has been awarded.
On page 25 there are anti-corruption measures that include greater controls on ethics and anti-corruption, with MEPs would be banned from any activities deemed to be conflicts of interests. There are also anti-corruption measures on page 10, such as reducing tax evasion and increase fiscal transparency, which are not related to EU corruption directly but are relevant. 1 point awarded.
Again on page 25 a series of proposals to increase transparency and regulation of lobbying include creating a body to oversee ethics in the all EU institutions, with control of transparency, lobbying and conflict of interest. There would be a requirement to publish information about all lobby meetings in all EU institutions as well as a three-year cooling off period for commissioners. 1, 2, and 1 points have been awarded to lobby registry, lobby regulation and mechanisms against the revolving door principle respectively.
On transparency of institutions, the party scores only 1 point. They intend to make Europe more democratic by giving the European Parliament the power to initiate European laws and enabling citizens to participate in their drafting. On page 22 they also affirm the necessity to have more transparency and citizens’ participation in the Union, whereas on page 15 there is a proposal on transparency of algorithms.
On transparency of EU funds, En Marche proposes to make access to funds conditional on the respect for the rule of law, which will be measured every year in each country. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to fund states that do not promote democracy (page 24). 1 final point awarded.
Parti Socialiste: 6 points in total has been awarded to the French Socialist Party.
On EU expenditures there is a proposal (#99) to increase transparency of spending on a country-by-country basis and to evaluate losses to fraud. This has been taken as a commitment to both transparency of spending and anti-corruption measures, although it lacks details. On corruption there is also proposal #102 for greater transparency of financial flows, including better control of tax havens and an end to bank secrecy in the European space. Proposal #61 is to strengthen anti-corruption measures and the powers of the European Prosecutor.
With respect to lobbying, which is highlighted in the programme, they pledge (#58) to create a High Authority for Transparency, based on the well-regarded French institution which would work register all lobbying activity and sanction violations. This has been interpreted as a mandatory registration although not explicit. It is reinforced by #60 on increasing transparency/accountability of both MEPs and EU public officials, with a strengthened code of conduct, properly overseen, and better conflict of interest controls.
Proposal 59 pledges to strengthen revolving door controls for Commissioners and senior officials, with a 5 year cooling off period.
They also pledge to strengthen the powers of the European Ombudsman.
+Europa: +Europa scores a total of 4.5 points.
Among the first proposals, the party includes the creation of a more ‘agile’, democratic, ‘new’ European Parliament’. It will have full legislative powers and represent the European citizens. 0.5 points have been awarded with regard to transparency in EU institutions.
On corruption, the section called ‘Less bureaucracy, less evasion, less taxes’ at page 3 shows how +Europa intends to cut the EU expenses ‘from the inside’, by increasing the means to contrast fiscal evasion. Always on page 3, they explain the necessity of a fully-fledged ‘intervention’ on European taxation, and how legality and anti-mafia measures are at the centre of +Europa’ political agenda. 1 point awarded.
On page 3 there is a mention on transparency of processes, and how digitalisation could improve the current situation. They particularly aim at reinforcing the democratic space, starting with the creation of a European unique portal for citizens’ engagement (page 4). 1 point awarded.
Lastly, on EU funds, +Europa pledges to increase the direct management of the funds, and to improve public procurement procedures in all Member States. Digitalising them, for example, will help the Union to fight corruption and be more transparent at the eyes of the citizens (page 8). On page 9 there is a proposal to improve the way European funds are used, while on page 12 the need to update the existent criteria for their assignment is explained. Finally, on page 13 there is a proposal to either sanction or reduce the amount of funds for those countries that limit democracy and civil liberties. 2 points awarded.
Forza Italia: In Section 1 Forza Italia pledges to give more powers to the European Parliament, being the only institution in the Union to be directly elected by the citizens. For this same reason, the legislative power will be transferred from the Commission to the Parliament, as well as a number of other ‘powers’ that have been exercised so far by the Commission. 1 point awarded.
With regard to transparency of European funds, a simplification of both the assignment and management of funds must be pursued. Section 8, in particular, shows how Forza Italia aims at decreasing bureaucracy and increasing transparency on the rules, the accountability, and the procedures to access EU funds. 2 points awarded.
Lastly, they present a set of anticorruption measures in Section 9. Being it very general, only 1 point has been awarded.
Movimento 5 Stelle: Overall, the Five Star Movement collects 1 point. 0.5 on transparency of decision-making and 0.5 on anti-corruption.
On the first matter, point 1 and 2 mention the need of a more participatory democracy, and the pledge of the party to put the Parliament and the Council on the same level, especially by providing the former of the power of legislative initiative.
On the second, the Movement pledges to ‘cut’ privileges and salaries of EU Commissioners and Deputies, and to eliminate the funds to political parties and foundations. Point 13, 22, and 23 give also a general overview of the anti-corruption measures the party aims to implement.
Partito Democratico: The Italian Democratic Party has no measures on control of lobbies and transparency of EU expenses, and almost no mention of decision-making.
A minor proposal is presented on page 16, where the party shows its intention to put the Parliament (the citizens) and the Council (the States) on the same level with regard to decision-making and legislative power.
A total of 0.5 points have been awarded to its manifesto.
Change UK: In its political manifesto, Change UK does not mention transparency, accountability, or decision-making.
Only on corruption, at page 6, they ‘seek the development of new international institutions to meet modern global challenges, including corporate tax avoidance and evasion’. At page 7 they state that ‘Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayers’ money and a stable, fair and balanced economy’. These are both very general provisions, so 0.5 points were awarded.
Green Party: A total of 11 points have been awarded to the Greens’ manifesto. In ‘Stamp out corruption’, at page 19, the Green Party gives a pretty comprehensive overview of what it intends to do in order to increase transparency and accountability in the EU.
On transparency of the European Institutions, the party claims to be some of the ‘strongest critics of the Commission and the Council’ and that it will always require the European Parliament to meet ‘the highest standards of probity and transparency’. They state that there should be ‘more transparency of Council decision making to allow democratic accountability and prevent national governments of hypocritically blaming ‘Brussels’’ and that the European Parliament should have full powers to initiate legislation. 2 points awarded.
On lobbying, they aim at establishing stronger controls of all EU institutions and they intend to put an end to the ‘revolving door’ principle, so that ‘powerful politicians cannot move straight into lobbying for corporations’. They are also going to extend the cooling off period before EU politicians can work in the private sector they have been regulating. 2 and 3 points have been therefore awarded with regard to control of lobbies and conflict of interests resolution/revolving door respectively.
On anticorruption measures, the Greens declare that ‘corruption must be resolutely fought’ and that they will ‘root out corruption wherever it’s hiding’. They intend to give more protection to activists, journalists, and whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing and hidden information in the public interest. In ‘Tax the rich’, at page 12, they declare that they will ‘develop tax regimes that do not continue to privilege large multinational corporations and wealthy individuals’, stating that they ‘have fought hard in the European Parliament for more tax justice’ and that they ‘will continue to crack down on tax havens, tax evasion, tax avoidance and money laundering’. 2 points awarded.
Lastly, on transparency of EU funds, they state that ‘European funds must not be used to break European rules’. ‘National governments that undermine the rule of law shall be denied control over EU funds, while final beneficiaries shall be protected’. They also intend to ‘update EU procurement rules to ensure that only companies with transparent and tax-responsible policies can receive EU funds’. 2 points awarded.
Labour Party: The Labour Party has not included any specific recommendation concerning transparency in EU decision-making, expenses, and lobbying.
Only at page 11, under ‘Ending Austerity and Rebuilding our Economy’, it states that it will ‘continue to support EU-wide efforts to close the loopholes, increase transparency, and take action on the tax havens that operate in Europe or with the support of EU countries’. 0.5 points have been awarded.
Liberal Democrats: 3.5 points have been awarded to the Democrats.
On transparency of decision-making processes, they want to ‘see a greater degree of transparency of negotiations and voting within the European Council, and the Council of the EU’ and ‘ensure that British Members of Parliament hold UK Government ministers better to account for the decisions they take on our behalf in Brussels’. Since they do not specify how they are going to achieve more transparency, just 1 point was awarded.
In the same section, ‘Investing for future: innovation, agriculture and regional development’, they claim to be ‘committed to spending taxpayers’ money as efficiently as possible’ and that ‘it is important to manage all European funds in a more effective manner to ensure the EU budget delivers on the issues that matter to citizens and that provides added value’. This is why 1 point has been awarded on both control of EU expenses and EU funds.
At the end of the manifesto they also mention the need to ‘clamp down on abuses of power by global corporations such a corporate tax avoidance’.