Institutional Affairs

Mandatory lobby register requires EU treaty change

14.12.13 @ 08:08

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - A treaty change or a unanimous decision from member states is needed to make the EU-joint transparency register mandatory.

  • The EU transparency register was set up in 2011 (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

“To get a legal base, we need a treaty change,” German centre-right MEP Rainer Wieland, told this website on Friday (13 December).

“And we expect the commission to come up with a proposal for a legal base,” added Wieland, who heads the parliament’s working group on the joint transparency register.

A review of the register on Thursday recommends the European Commission come forward with a proposal to adapt the EU Treaty to make it compulsory.

The idea still has to get screened and approved by the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee before a formal proposal is put forward to the commission.

Should the treaty change idea fall apart then the commission needs to put together another proposal by 2016, which would require unanimity among EU member states.

Wieland said this is the least favourable of the two options because it would exclude the parliament from having any influence.

“It is also possible the commission does not want to come with a proposal because it is out of any reach to get a decision of the council,” he said.

If no decision is made, then the transparency register will come up for review again in 2017.

Parliament sources say European commissioner for inter-institutional affairs Maros Sefcovic wants to keep the register voluntary in order to attract more entries.

The commission’s official line is that making the register mandatory would be too difficult.

“It would raise a great number of complex legal issues, in particular with regard to the scope of the register, and compliance with other articles of the treaties,” it said in a statement.

The two sides came together to review the register and instead put forward some 30 recommendations to improve it.

One idea is to expand the scope to include all lobbying activities no matter where they take place geographically.

Another is to make a distinction between for profit and non-profit agencies.

Both the MEPs and the commission agree incentives need to be put in place to encourage more people to register.

The working group wants to shut out the exceptions to a rule that requires registration to access parliament buildings.

“These incentives include facilitating access to EP premises, the possibility to be consulted by the commission as experts or by heard at EP committee hearings,” notes the working group.

But Olivier Hoedeman at the Brussels-base Corporate Europe Observatory described the recommendations as “incredibly vague.”

He noted the commission meets with major corporations that are not in the registry like US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The commission, for its part, estimates up to 75 percent of all relevant business-related entities and around 60 percent of NGOs operating in Brussels have registered.

Nearly 6,000 organisations are currently in the register, although pro-transparency groups say numerous entries are either out of date and contain errors.

Registrants are required to update the data once a year and on issues they lobbied on in the previous year.

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