In a vote to the report on Transparency, accountability Integrity in EU institutions, voted yesterday by the European Parliament, a strong majority of MEPs rejected a number of last minute amendments tabled in plenary that aimed at restricting civic freedoms and participation of civil society organisations in the decision making process at EU level which express a critical voice.
The language used in those amendments such as : “political active organisations” , “that disseminate untruths”, “are contrary to the policy objectives of the European Union” was extremely ambiguous and would have damaged all civil society organisations in all sectors and of all sizes that engage in any type of advocacy activities at EU level in order to voice the concerns of EU citizens on issues of public interest.
Also the allegation that “NGOs receiving EU funding and the European Commission would sign outcome agreements with the aim of influencing politicians and governments” is a blatant example of an attempt to also “demostrably disseminate untruths”.
Other amendments suggested indirectly that controls applied to NGO funding are much less stringent and transparent than to other EU funding beneficiaries which is far from being true, as all EU beneficiaries are subject to the EU regulation on Financial rules. Also concrete measures proposed while mentioning also lobbyists focused specifically on NGOs.
By targeting NGOs, these amendments diverted attention from undue influence of corporate interests and from the duty that EU institutions themselves have to respect transparency and prevent risk of conflicts between private and public interest in line also with “practical recommendations” of the European Ombudsman.
The language of these amendments is very similar to the language of a draft own initiative report discussed in the EP budgetary control Committee on “budgetary control of financing NGOs from the EU budget”.
CSE members are in favour of increased transparency regarding EU funding and decision making. For this reason we have called for a mandatory transparency register, with an adequately staffed and resourced secretariat. We also believe that all lobbyists should also, regardless of sector, be subject to the same rules, and that decision-makers should disclose information concerning who is lobbying them, in line with the report adopted by the EP yesterday.
Transparency and accountability is critical for the NGO sector, who is also directly accountable to the large number of citizens that are involved in their work. We have therefore called for an open dialogue on these issues with all relevant institutions and also improvements in the EU Financial Transparency System data base for all beneficiaries whether they are NGOs, companies, public authorities, etc. We also look forward to the outcome of the Court of Auditors report.