European Parliament dithers on banning Russian lobbyists

Political pressure is mounting for the European Parliament to unilaterally strip Russian lobbyists of their access badges.

“The accreditation of lobbyists from Gazprom and other entities affiliated with the Russian state should be revoked immediately,” said Pedro Marques, vice-president of the Socialists & Democrats group, on Wednesday May 25.

His support comes after the Greens, in a letter to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola earlier this week, made similar demands.

“At the moment we are awaiting a response and whether there is political will,” Ska Keller, co-chair of the Greens and one of the signatories to the letter, said in an email.

“Since we just sent the letter, it could still take a few days before we know how things are going if someone blocks,” she said.

The office of Renew Europe President Stéphane Séjourné said they share the same view.

“We support revocation regardless of the process,” the spokesperson for Séjourné said in an email.

But other groups appear more ambivalent — or yet have adopted a unified position.

“We haven’t discussed this specific issue as a group,” a spokesman for the left said.

The left, he said, would, however, support revoking access for all lobbyists working for violent regimes.

A centre-right EPP spokesman did not respond when asked. No more than a spokesperson for its leader, German MEP Manfred Weber.

Hesitation

The pressure comes amid hesitation by the European Parliament to block Russian lobbyists from accessing its buildings.

This comes despite a proposal by European Parliament President Metsola to bar them from entering the premises of all EU institutions.

Metsola pitched the idea more than 80 days ago.

Some 13 Russia-based lobbyists, such as Gazprom and Lukoil, can still enter parliament at will.

Metsola’s original plan was to first have them removed from the EU’s common transparency register.

Registration in the register is a requirement for any lobbyist wishing to gain official access to EU institutions.

Parliament says Russian lobbyists breached the registry’s code of conduct, citing reputational damage.

But removing them from the register also implies an agreement with the European Commission and the Council, representing the Member States.

According to the requests for documents submitted by Pierre Teffer on Follow the Money, a news site based in the Netherlands, the Council under the French EU Presidency is obstructing these efforts.

The European Parliament could, however, move forward on its own.

Asked why this has not happened, a European Parliament spokesperson said “different ways are being discussed and considered”.

Its own internal regulations state that passes can be revoked if the registry’s code of conduct has been violated.

This includes damage to reputation, the very ones cited by parliament in its proposal to have them removed from the transparency register.

Asked for comment, Gazprom did not respond.

But Lukoil’s main representative in Brussels, Maxim Bunin, did.

He says scheduled meetings with the European Commission have been suspended and no meetings with MEPs have taken place since Russia’s war with Ukraine.

“Our parliament entry badges required special activation at the Accreditation Center both times when our company representatives have visited there over the past few months,” he said in an email. .

He also said the company fully complies with the EU Transparency Register Code of Conduct.

“The company is not under European sanctions,” he stressed.

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