Today, Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas, who is taking part in the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg, met the chairman of the EP’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Danuta Hübner, and MEP Jo Leinen, to discuss the current state of reform of the electoral law of the EU.
Reform of EU electoral law requires consensus from member states in the Council. Negotiations are under way on various issues such as establishing a mandatory threshold or voting rights of EU citizens living in third countries. The dwindling turnout in EP elections will also be dealt with. Whereas turnout was 62% in 1979, it had dropped to 42% by 2014, and as low as 13% in some member states. Maasikas said: “Getting out the vote has been a concern for a long time now. If people think that nothing depends on their votes, they will not go to the polls. Yet the EP’s activities have an effect on every EU citizens every day.
At an afternoon meeting with Secretary-General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle conclusions were drawn regarding the Estonian Presidency and cooperation with EP. Maasikas said cooperation during the six months of the Presidency had gone superbly, as shown by various meetings on legislation and discussions in plenary session.
Meetings this evening with European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and MEP Cecilia Wikström will cover the implementation of the interinstitutional agreement on better law-making and the state of play of legislative debates. Aspects of the transparency register will be discussed with MEPs Danuta Hübner and Sylvie Guillaume. Last Wednesday, the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER) gave the Council a mandate for negotiations and released the relevant documents.
The Transparency Register and the general push to make special-interest influence more visible has been one of Estonia’s priorities. The proposal for the register came from the EC last autumn, the idea being that it would be obligatory for all interest group representatives, and all three of the EU’s main institutions would have to follow uniform minimum standards. The first register was established by the EP and Commission in 2011 and the current voluntary register lists over 9,800 lobbyists who have to abide by a single set of standards of conduct. Maasikas said: “It is in all of our interests to gain greater clarity as to who is trying to influence whom, how and why and how it all affects decision-making and by that extension, our collective future.”
Maasikas and EP President Antonio Tajani also signed 13 EU legal acts on consumer protection, stability measures and investments.
Tomorrow, Maasikas will speak, representing the Estonian Presidency, in seven discussions at the EU Plenary, including enlargement of the Schengen area, implementation of the social pillar, civil defence capability and prohibition of Nazi and fascist symbols.
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