The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has organised an appeal to introduce a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency register. On the 11th of may a letter was sent to the Vice-president of European Commission, Frans Timmermans, signed by 113 non-governmental organizations, including Transparency International, Oxfam, European Public Services Union, European Coalition for Corporate Justice, supported also by the new European Parliament inter group on integrity, to urge a strong action to create this register.
The ALTER-EU, which coordinates the letter addressed to Frans Timmermans, will engage the improvement of lobby transparency at the EU and member states levels over the next two years. Despite the signatories NGO recognize the steps of Juncker Commission to increase lobby transparency incentivizing registration, there are still three weaknesses:
The lobbying register is not obligatory, which means that lobbyists can continue to avoid transparency.
Disclosure requirements are too weak to give a comprehensive range of information. The data are vague about who the EU’s lobbyists are, their work, the financial influences and financial costs. As a result, too many information disclosed can even be misleading.
Last but not least, the lack of sanctions. The lobbyist who doesn’t follow the rules could turn the event into a great failure without the risk to be monitored properly. This is hugely problematic because it is vital that non-registered lobbyists face effective fines or other meaningful sanctions.
On the basis of these factors, the NGO signatories proposed to Timmermans as a matter of urgency has some points that should be implemented by the Commission:
-. The ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists must be extended to ensure that it will be applied to all staff, to further boost registration.
-. The European Commission must release detailed proposals on the disclosure of additional and more precise information. Particularly it should be included expenditure on lobbying activities and the details about the lobbyist’s dossiers.
-. While acknowledging the Junker engagement, the European Commission must engage in introducing a more open and transparent process with other EU institutions to improve the lobby register.
-. Monitoring of the rules must be implemented for more effectiveness. The Commission should make a legislative proposal “including the objective of a lobby register that is legally-binding on lobbyists and thus truly mandatory (requiring legislation) in its proposed Inter-Institutional Agreement as a medium-term option to ensure that the EU lobbyists sign up”.
This letter is part of the campaign “Full lobby transparency now!” launched at the end of April 2015, in which EU institutions are demanded to be more transparent through the creation of a new legally-binding lobby register by the end of 2016, and in the same time arouse public interest in a new high-quality register.
A research about the lobby scene in Brussels: “Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver?”
ALTER-EU published in January 2015 a report that shows how a non-mandatory approach to EU-lobby transparency regulation fails to provide citizens with an accurate picture of lobby scene in Brussels. The group criticized some of the main groups that are actively lobbying the EU institutions, but they are not still registered in the EU’s transparency register such as financial lobbyists (ex. Standard & Poor, Credit Suisse, etc.), lobby consultancies, law firms and Major corporations (ex. General Motors).
The concern is not just about a non-registration of many lobbyists in the EU transparency register, but it is also about the problem that many registered organizations don’t provide full and accurate lobby data: “data is opaque, confusing, unclear, and does not provide the clear picture of lobbying in Brussels which is required for citizens to hold the EU institutions to account (…) around 150 lobby consultancies, law firms or consultants have improperly listed clients as “confidential”, “not applicable”, “N/A”, “none”, “customers”, “corporate sector”, “various” etc. This is a clear breach of the rules on disclosing clients, and one that undermines lobby transparency as it makes it impossible to see who is lobbying on behalf of whom”.
The Juncker Commission is engaged in introducing a mandatory lobby register but with very limited improvements, particularly the European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans is proposing to create a mandatory register via inter-institutional agreement. If this agreement goes through, it could be very misleading. The weakness is that an inter-institutional agreement can only create rules for EU institutions, but “lobbyists themselves would not be affected”.
That’s why the Timmermans proposal is criticised. That’s why Timmermans received the letter. That’s why ALTER-EU and others NGO are proposing a EU legislation to create a legally-binding EU lobby register for two important reasons:
-. Firstly, a legislation would introduce a proper enforcement mechanisms to verify information provided in the register;
-. Secondly, a register created by legislation would be permanent and it will not be at risk of dependence to current or future legislation.
This is a new opportunity to give more strength to and make fast progress in EU lobby transparency.
For more information:
-. Campaign: Full lobby transparency now! http://alter-eu.org/full-lobby-transparency-now
-. Open letter to Frans Timmermans from 113 NGOs on EU lobby register: http://altereu.org/sites/default/files/documents/Letter%20to%20Timmermans%20on%20Lobby%20Register%20February%202015.pdf
-. New and Improved? Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver http://altereu.org/sites/default/files/documents/Why%20EU%20Lobby%20Register%20still%20fails%20to%20deliver%20-%20print%20version.pdf
-. EU-LOGOS Athèna, “Vers un niveau élevé de responsabilité, de transparence et intégrité au sein des institutions européennes”. Compte-rendu de l’audition commune du 26 mars 2015. http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org/2015/04/19/vers-un-niveau-eleve-de-responsabilite-de-transparence-et-dintegrite-au-sein-des-institutions-europeennes-compte-rendu-de-laudition-commune-du-26-mars-2015/