Lobbying risks corruption

 

EU.lobbying

In a democratic society, lobbying is a potentially legitimate activity. It involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration.  It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf, or else acting on behalf of third parties, seek to ensure that decision takers are well informed before taking the required decisions. Obviously lobbying should not be the process through which the decision takers make way for the representatives of corporations to take their place.

Free and open access to decision takers is an important matter of public interest. It is perfectly legitimate but ought to be regulated and the resulting information adequately and appropriately disclosed. The difficulty, as always, is where to draw the line. It must be ensured that society protects itself against the corruption risks involved in lobbying when this is secretive and unregulated.

The manner in which Dalligate is unfolding in the EU institutions clearly underlines this preoccupation.  The European Institutions have lobbying rules.  The basic issue of Dalligate is in my view not whether former EU Commissioner John Dalli resigned or was dismissed. Rather, in line with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners, the issue is whether he “acted in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity and duties” of his office when meeting with lobbyists away from the Commission offices, unaccompanied, and such that what went on during the meetings is not documented but known only to a couple of persons. Even if everything said in such meetings was above board, the fact that they were held is itself unacceptable. John Dalli claims, most probably correctly, that he was entrapped by the tobacco industry. Being so naive as to facilitate his own entrapment, it was right that he should go without a whimper. Instead we were regaled with theatrics which have served no useful purpose, not even for John Dalli.

All this is further compounded by the additional very serious allegation that representatives of the tobacco industry met with other senior officials of the EU Commission without these meetings being disclosed and documented.  Emily O’Reilly Ombudsman of the European Union is currently carrying out an investigation at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory on fourteen such meetings.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a watchdog based in Brussels and campaigning for greater transparency and accountability in decision taking, estimates that in Brussels alone there are around 30,000 lobbyists. Compare this to the around 24,000 staff employed by the European Commission as on 31 December 2013 and you get a glimpse of what’s going on in the corridors of Brussels. Lobbying in Brussels is a billion euro industry which seeks to influence and at times deflect political decisions. The regulation of lobbying seeks to place a spotlight on the source of influence and hopefully to counter attempts to derail or deflect political decisions.

There is a continuous debate in the EU institutions on fine tuning the rules regulating lobbying. In 2011 the European Parliament approved an “Inter-institutional agreement on a Common Transparency Register between the Parliament and the Commission”. This register provides for the voluntary registering of lobbyists active in the EU institutions. It is hoped that during the current EU Parliament’s term the registration of lobbyists in Brussels will be a compulsory matter. This may happen when the issues raised by Dalligate are finally addressed, possibly within the next few months.

Closer to home, a Parliamentary Select Committee has concluded its workings on Standards in Public Life. The Select Committee generally did a good job. It produced a final report which Mr Speaker laid on the Table of the House on the 24 March 2014. The report, including the proposed legislation attached to the said report, deals with the behaviour of Members of Parliament (including members of Cabinet) and persons appointed to positions of trust in the public sector (including statutory authorities) primarily with reference to their declaration of assets as well as with reference to a Code of Ethics which has been in force since 1994.  Surprisingly there is no direct reference to lobbying in the workings and conclusions of the Parliamentary Select Committee.

Lobbying, as is normal, is very much existent in Malta too. It would be appropriate if it is addressed by ensuring that it is regulated, documented and disclosed where appropriate. However it seems that currently there are no plans to regulate lobbying in Malta. If we are really serious on tackling corruption at its roots it would be better if the need to regulate lobbying is urgently reconsidered. Together with legislation on the financing of political parties, the regulation of lobbying would create a quasi complete tool-kit in the fight against corruption.

published in The Times of Malta – 21 July 2014

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30 minuta għal John Dalli

30 minutes or less

Meta Josè Manoel Barroso, President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, iltaqa’ ma John Dalli nhar  is-16 t’Ottubru 2012 qallu li kien qed jagħtih 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi – jew jitlaq inkella jtellqu.

Wara li iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa l-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja (ECJ) semgħet ix-xhieda ta’ John Dalli, ta’ Josè Manoel Barroso u ta’ oħrajn, kif ukoll wara li l-konsulenti legali kemm ta’ Dalli kif ukoll ta’ Barroso qalu tagħhom, l-affarijiet forsi huma ftit iktar ċari.

Lil John Dalli nafu, mill-viċin. Ħdimt miegħu għal xi żmien. Nistqarr li jiena ftit ippreġudikat favur tiegħu. Kont qiegħed nittama li f’dak li nisma’ jew naqra insib x’imkien xi ħaġa li tispjega dak li ilu jingħad b’mod li jkun  ċar li mexa sewwa.

Dak li qiegħed jingħad m’hu ta’ ġid għal ħadd. Jagħmel il-ħsara lir-reputazzjoni ta’ kulħadd. L-ikbar ħsara li saret s’issa hi lir-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta li jidher illi kull min lablab dwar il-każ ftit li xejn ħa in konsiderazzjoni.

Hemm affarijiet li huma ċari ħafna. Il-każ  hu kumplott mill-industrija tat-tabakk biex tipproteġi lilha inifisha u biex tnaqqas ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-industrija. Il-mira kienet id-Direttiva dwar il-Prodotti tat-Tabakk u l-profitti sostanzjali għall-industrija li jirriżultaw b’inqas  regolamentazzjoni.

John Dalli jidher li għandu raġun meta jinsisti li hemm diversi persuni mlaħħqin fil-Kummissjoni li kienu f’kuntatt inkiss inkiss mal-industrija tat-tabakk. Tant li Corporate Europe Observatory nhar it-2 ta’ Lulju 2014 ħabbret li l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ser tinvestiga 14-il laqgħa li saru minn persuni ta’ madwar Barroso u li m’humiex dokumentati skond ir-regoli tal-EU. Il-Corporate Europe Observatory hi bbażata fi Brussels. Xogħolha hu  biex tgħasses fuq il-lobby tal-industrija u n-negozju u l-impatt tagħhom fuq il-ħidma tal-istrutturi kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Imma minbarra dawn il-laqgħat li Barroso u ta’ madwaru qed jgħidu li ma sarux hemm laqgħat oħra li saru minn John Dalli. John Dalli ikkonferma anke’ fix-xhieda tiegħu quddiem il-Qorti Ewropeja li dawn il-laqgħat saru imma qal li ma ippjanhomx u l-anqas ma kien jaf li dawk li ltaqgħu miegħu kienu mill-industrija tat-tabakk.  Jiġifieri l-inqas li jista’ jingħad hu li tat-tabakk lil Dalli ippruvaw jaħdmuh, u sa ċertu punt irnexxilhom. Imkien ma irriżulta s’issa li Dalli, kif induna x’ġara, informa lill-awtoritajiet kompetenti fi Brussels b’dak li ġara.  L-unika ħaġa li nafu li titfa ftit dawl fuq x’ġara hi x-xhieda ta’ Joanna Darmanin [ara nota 1], li kienet tmexxi s-Segretarjat Privat ta’ Dalli bħala Kummissarju Ewropew fi Brussels. Darmanin nhar it-Tnejn xhedet illi meta staqsiet lil John Dalli jekk hux veru li huwa ltaqa’ ma tat-tabakk, weġibha li jiltaqa’ ma kull min jidhirlu hu. Dan hu statement gravi ħafna, għax waqt li kien Kummissarju John Dalli ma kellux dan id-dritt li jiltaqa’ ma min irid hu. 24 siegħa kuljum kien qed jirrappreżenta lill-Kummissjoni u kellu l-obbligu li jimxi mar-regoli. Dan m’għamlux, anke jekk mhux neċessarjament li hu t-tort tiegħu.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu hu ċar li John Dalli iltaqa’ ma rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk u ma informa b’dan lil ħadd sakemm inqalgħet l-istorja tas-€60 miljun.

Ir-rapport tal-OLAF fuq il-każ kollu hu mimli toqob. Kif sewwa jgħid Dalli innifsu biex sar ir-rapport Giovanni Kesssler wettaq ħafna irregolaritajiet. Waħda mill-MEPs Ġermaniżi membru tal-Kumitat Parlamentari (EU) tal-kontroll tal-budget iddokumentat dawn l-irregolaritajiet  gravi, lista twila.

Dan iwassal għal żewġ konklużjonijiet bażiċi.  L-ewwel li r-rapport ta’ Govanni Kessler għandu jkun skartat u t-tieni li John Dalli, b’konferma tiegħu stess, iltaqa’ b’mod irregolari ma’ rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk. It-tielet konkluzjoni dwar kuntatti irregolari ta’ dawk madwar Barroso mal-industrija tat-tabakk  trid tistenna ftit ieħor sakemm l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ittemm l-investigazzjoni tagħha.

Dan ifisser li John Dalli bħala riżultat li tat-tabakk ħadmuh ma kienx iktar postu fil-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

John Dalli ma kellux bżonn 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi. Kien ilu li ikkomprometta l-posizzjoni tiegħu mill-mument li induna li tat-tabakk ħadmuh u ma għamilx rapport dwar dan.

Hi ħasra li John Dalli aġixxa b’mod daqshekk baħnan. L-irġulija titlob li meta jsir żball nerfgħu r-responsabbilta’ tiegħu.  Wasal iż-żmien li anke John Dalli jagħmel dan il-pass. Il-ħsara li saret hi kbira wisq.

ippubblikat fuq iNews il-Ħamis 10 ta’ Lulju 2014

 

nota 1:

Malta Today irrappurtat hekk online

18:16: Darmanin says she asked Dalli whether he had really met the tobacco representatives. “He said, I meet with whom I like.”

 

Dalli vs Barroso u Kessler : ir-round li jmiss

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Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla fil-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja ser jitla’ jixhed Josè Manoel Barroso innifsu biex iwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet ta’ l-Imħallfin fil-kawża li fetaħ John Dalli innifsu.

Dan hu l-ewwel darba li Barroso qed ikun mitlub jixhed dwar il-każ sentejn wara r-riżenja sfurzata ta’ John Dalli minn Kummissarju.

Imma dan mhux kollox. L-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly bdiet tinvestga dwar laqgħat sigrieti bejn il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja u l-Industrija tat-tabakk. Talbet lill-Barroso jispjega u tatu sat-30 ta’ Settembru żmien.

L-investigazzjoni tal-Ombudsman tal-EU bdiet wara li irċeviet ilment mill-NGO Ewropew Corporate Europe Observatory.

Sadanittant f’Malta sirna nafu li Silvio Zammit ġie imwiegħed proklama u li l-konfront bejn John Dalli u Giovanni Kessler jidher li hu pospost!

Il-kobba tkompli titħabbel.