Belgium in Brief: Calling time on the lobbying gravy train?

Belgium in Brief: Calling time on the lobbying gravy train?

The Qatargate revelations triggered a flurry of indignation and led many to question the integrity of the EU architecture. The episode has been disappointing on a number of fronts, from the fact that the European Parliament is the only directly elected institution and should be more accountable, to the apparent lack of checks and balances, to the outright audacity of those involved.

The literal bags of money that were involved are almost too true to the caricature of corruption to be believed – surely it can't be that blatant we might ask. Remarkably this time it was. But it isn't always so easy to spot the back-room meetings and potential conflicts of interest, not least when lobbying is an accepted and even bona fide part of the EU organisation.

Whilst this might normally have been presented as a benign way of promoting industries or social movements that are affected by the long arm of EU legislation, it is a statement of fact that does little to restore the public's reeling faith in the system. And though there are certainly lobbies that would be widely accepted as serving an important function for a just cause, there are others that impede progress and even open the door to regulation that will be detrimental to communities and the environment.

In conversation with The Brussels Times, the anti-corruption organisation Transparency International told of a culture of impunity in which lawmakers exchange with often powerful corporate leaders in meetings that have little oversight, if they are declared at all. Moreover, some MEPs even receive payment for "side jobs" to supplement their already substantial official salaries. Talented as our elected representatives might be, we can assume that they might have other attributes that land them these lucrative deals.

Unfortunately, there seems little hope for a swift culture change to bring an end to the whole business. For starters, there are too many who have a hand in it: Brussels is home to some 48,000 professionals whose job is to influence decision-makers. And trying to impose an ethical framework on officials of such diverging views seems bound for failure. So how long until the next affair?

Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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