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Kallas lanceert nieuwe transparantie-plannen om vertrouwen burgers in EU te herstellen (en)

Met dank overgenomen van EUobserver (EUOBSERVER), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 4 november 2005, 9:50.
Auteur: | By Marit Ruuda

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT By Siim Kallas - In recent years the European Commission has put in place a broad range of concrete measures to increase transparency.

 

There is already strong legislation on 'access to documents' of the EU institutions. There is the publication of a list of expert groups advising the commission and the upcoming launch in the autumn of an on-line public register of such groups.

 

There is also an agreement with the European Parliament to provide information on the composition and working methods of the numerous expert groups providing input in the process of policy-shaping. Furthermore, the commission has adopted a "Code of Good Administrative Behaviour" as the commission's benchmark for quality service in its relations with the public.

 

European Transparency Initiative

 

But transparency requires a permanent effort. When I first suggested, in March 2005, launching a European Transparency Initiative (ETI), the objective was to see what further steps could be taken to increase the transparency with which the EU handles the responsibilities and funds entrusted to it by the European citizens.

I felt, and still feel, that compliance with the highest standards of transparency is an essential condition for the legitimacy of any modern administration.

 

The European public is entitled to expect efficient, accountable and service-minded public institutions. It is also a means to restore confidence in the EU institutions.

The European Transparency Initiative is now becoming a reality. It is an ambitious policy process aimed at ensuring proper functioning of the decision-making process, winning the trust of the public and ensuring proper use of EU funds.

 

Four important pillars

 

To achieve these objectives, the Initiative will rest on four important pillars:

 

  • The first pillar is intended to increase financial accountability and information about the way the EU budget is used. The idea is to publish information about projects and end-beneficiaries of EU funds. For the funds in shared management for example - applied in the common agricultural policy, the structural and cohesion funds - the commission intends as a first step to propose establishing links between a commission-run central portal on the web and the information provided by member sates.

 

The next step could be to publish all information about projects and end-beneficiaries. Several member states already make this information available (Denmark, Estonia, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia and some Spanish regions).

 

  • The second pillar is to fight fraud by raising awareness. The commission wants to explore possibilities for the European anti-fraud office (OLAF) to give information on fraud cases following the conclusion of investigations. While doing that, the commission has to fully respect the presumption of innocence and other fundamental rights of individuals concerned, as well as the confidentiality of the investigation.

 

  • Thirdly, the transparency of lobby activities towards the EU institutions should be increased. At the moment there are about 15,000 lobbyists established in Brussels and around 2,600 interest groups. It is estimated lobbying activities produce €60 to 90 million in annual revenues. There is, however, no mandatory regulation on reporting or registering lobby activities. Registers provided by lobbyists' organisations in the EU are voluntary, coverage is partial and they do not provide much information on the specific interests represented or on how they are financed. The same applies for NGOs.

 

The already existing database could be transferred into a compulsory registration system for all lobbies. Moreover, all organisations and individuals listed in a register should be encouraged to adhere to a common code of conduct which is policed by the sector itself.

 

Codes of conduct

 

  • The fourth pillar addresses ethical standards throughout the European institutions. At the moment there is a variety of rules, codes of conducts and regulations which govern standards in public life in all European institutions.

In the commission, the basic rules of integrity applying to the members of the European Commission are laid down by article 213, paragraph 2 of the Treaty, and in the Code of Conduct for Commissioners. In the European Parliament every member has to submit a declaration of financial interests on his/her remunerated activities and the support he/she receives from third parties while in the Council, representatives of member states are bound by their national rules of integrity.

 

The Court of Auditors is subject to a code of conduct. Ensuring an "ethical level playing field" could be made possible by re-launching a proposal made by the commission in 2000 to create an inter-institutional advisory committee on ethics in public life.

According to the latest Eurobarometer poll citizens' confidence in the European institutions fell significantly during the first half of 2005 to one of the lowest levels recorded since 2001.

 

European citizens have relatively little knowledge of the EU. ETI should go towards restoring confidence in the European Union by increasing the level of transparency within the EU institutions as well as in member states.

 

The author is member of the European Commission responsible for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud measures


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