Will the European Parliament please stand up ?

The European Parliament is supposedly tasked with scrutiny of EU activities and at last it seems like some MEPs have started demanding answers on the expenditure and the paid promotion of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Over 20 parliamentarians led by Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers (ECR) have asked the Commission to come clean on the expenditure of the Conference. Together they write:

Last year the European Parliament offered funding opportunities for activities linked to the Conference on the Future of Europe(1)(2). Social media campaigns indicate that taxpayers’ money is being used to generate youth and civil society engagement as well as media coverage of the conference(3).

A majority of Parliament voted to reject a ‘commitment to full transparency’ relating to the funding of the conference(4). EU institutions use separate budgets to finance the conference, and no information pertaining to the financing or grants awarded in connection with the conference is available on the official conference website.

Considering that transparency and openness of decision-making procedures are foundational values of the EU and essential to a system under the rule of law:

1. Can the Commission account for the total budgetary impact of the conference, and what is the breakdown of the expenditure per type of activity funded?

2. Can the Commission provide a list of all calls for proposals and tenders, and all grants awarded in relation to the conference?

3. Will it show its commitment to transparency by ensuring relevant financial information is easily accessible, for example on the ‘about’ page of the official conference website?

Four German MEPs from the ID group have asked the Commission about the official conference platform.

On 19 April 2021, the multilingual digital platform for the Conference on the Future of Europe was launched. Could the Commission please answer the following questions on this platform:

1. How much is the Commission planning to spend on visibility and communication campaigns to promote this digital platform to EU citizens?

2. Given the low initial participation rates, is there a minimum number of participants required to validate this digital platform as being a fair representation of the views of all EU citizens?

3. Online democracy platforms face a significant risk of manipulation through fake accounts and bots, which have the potential to distort the popularity of the ideas and initiatives proposed on this platform. What measures are in place to ensure that the reliability of this platform is not affected by malicious users?

Let’s hope the Commission decides to live up to all the talk of transparency and sunshine and comes clean with regard to the financing of the Conference. In the meantime we await the 30th of June publication by the European Parliament of the 2020 grant recipients.

MEPs just voted AGAINST financial transparency for the Conference on the Future of Europe

Last week, the European Parliament voted on whether there should be “clarifications on financing of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” when it comes to “the conditions for financing this conference and the consequences for the [European Parliament]’s budget”.

The amendment also asked MEPs to support “a commitment to full transparency on the expenditure of this conference, including the keeping of separate accounts and an audit report by the European Court of Auditors for each year of functioning”

Guess how MEPs voted on this?

You’d think it’s a no-brainer for all MEPs to support this. Even proponents of the “future of Europe” talking shop shouldn’t have any problem with full transparency, right?

Think again.

The whole thing was voted down with 329 MEPs voting in favour, 360 against, and 10 abstaining.

Here’s a breakdown (SOURCE):

Almost everyone in EPP, ECR and ID supported transparency, with some notable dissent from the group line.

The great proponents of CoFoE, the “pro-European” “Renew” group and the greens, unanimously rejected transparency. Also the socialists and the far left mostly voted against, but at least a few among them still supported the idea.

With so few votes making the difference it is hard to understand how MEPs from transparency-minded Nordic and Western European Member States could vote to reject transparency in such a blatant manner. Did they think people wouldn’t notice?

Noteworthy is that the co-chair of the Executive Board of the Conference, Guy Verhofstadt (Renew, BE) voted against transparency. The EPP representative on the Board voted in favor while the socialist voted against. Of the observers on the Executive Board only Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, PL) voted for transparency. Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA, DE) and Helmut Scholz (The Left, DE) voted against. In a bizarre twist Gerolf Annemans (ID, BE) abstained. He is observer for the same ID group that tabled the amendment.

Just when you thought the “Conference on the Future of Europe” was a rather extreme example of Brussels navel-gazing, there’s the European Parliament – an institution supposed to scrutinize EU policy making – to take it one step further and publicly reject financial transparency.