There was no shortage of bad news in the European Parliament elections results earlier this month. Take the turnout rate of 43%, the lowest since the start of European elections in 1979, signaling a growing sense of alienation and disempowerment among voters. No less shocking is the fact that so many MEPs were elected from xenophobic parties in Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, the UK and other EU countries.
As the dust settled, there was also some good news. No less than 73 of the newly elected MEPs have pledged "to provide leadership in lobbying transparency and ethics". These MEPs were among the 381 candidates that committed to the pledge formulated by the ALTER-EU coalition as part of the www.electioncampaign.eu initiative.
The MEPs, from diverse political backgrounds and countries, promised to promote the following objectives:
* Replacing the current flawed lobbying register with a mandatory EU lobbying register that includes a list of all individual lobbyists, the legislative dossiers lobbied on and detailed information on the money spent on lobbying per client.
* Ensuring that the Parliament takes all necessary steps to ban conflicts of interest, including barring MEPs from working as lobbyists while in office.
* Securing full transparency around Expert Groups and other groups advising the European Commission, and strong safeguards against privileged access and unbalanced composition of Expert Groups.
It is the first time that such a substantial number of MEPs have ever committed themselves to positive change on these important issues. This promises well for the coming five years.