Meeting representatives of the gas industry at three dinners held to debate energy policy did not fall under the European Parliament’s mandatory reporting rules, according to guidance issued to Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly.
Mr Kelly, who led negotiations on a key directive about improving the energy efficiency of buildings on behalf of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), attended dinners in September, October and December held by policy discussion group the European Energy Forum.
The events came under scrutiny this week after a controversial amendment favoured by the liquid gas industry was included at the insistence of the EPP in the update of the energy performance of buildings directive, a key plank of the EU’s green deal efforts to meet its climate goals.
Brussels-based outlet Politico reported that Mr Kelly had met the general manager of lobby group Liquid Gas Europe, Ewa Abramiuk-Lete, at the dinners. He was also a speaker at an online event organised by Liquid Gas Europe in June 2022.
“Mr Kelly had no official role at the meetings and was not a speaker and did not have access to the list of attendees prior or after the event,” the MEP’s team informed the European Parliament’s directorate in a statement. “Interactions in question were short passing remarks of general points. No communication was made with any stakeholder prior to the debate dinners, including in relation to any sort of side meetings.”
[ Seán Kelly did not declare gas ‘lobbying’ due to ‘admin error’ ]
In response, the directorate told Mr Kelly’s team that encounters at the dinners did not fall under mandatory reporting rules as they were not “scheduled meetings” between those concerned. “Spontaneous or social encounters are not covered, nor random unplanned encounters at events, rallies or meetings of associations,” the directorate wrote. “From the description of events you give, we would not consider that these encounters fall into the scope of mandatory publication of meetings.”
The dinners were dedicated to debating the energy performance of buildings, biomethane and a planned revision of hydrogen rules.
Mr Kelly has strongly denied favouring the gas industry, saying he meets a wide variety of stakeholders as a vital part of policymaking.
The EPP was strongly internally divided on the buildings directive, and ultimately their MEPs split between abstaining, opposing and supporting it. This allowed just enough votes for it to pass in Strasbourg this week.
Dublin Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe, who led negotiations to find a deal, said Mr Kelly should be given credit for working to persuade the EPP not to block the deal.
[ Five Irish MEPs did not disclose any lobbying meetings over three years ]
“I want to acknowledge Seán Kelly’s role in getting this deal across the line. I also understand that he argued strongly internally for the file within his group, albeit with the concessions he proposed. If the EPP had opposed it, it would not have passed.”