EU lobbyist register gives incomplete picture
A joint transparency register launched by the European Commission and the European Parliament precisely one year ago is riddled with inaccuracies and gaps.
A report released on Monday (25 June) by the pro-transparency group Alter-EU says the voluntary register is failing to give a complete picture of lobbying in Brussels.
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"The reality is that far too many lobbies continue to boycott the register, including many large companies and law firms active in lobbying," said Alter-EU's Olivier Hoedeman.
Companies in the pharmaceutical, nuclear energy, financial sector, agri-business, as well as some Brussels-based think-tanks, are missing from the list.
Altogether, Alter-EU identified 120 companies, many of the world's largest, who actively lobby in Brussels but are not in the register.
Apple Inc, Disney, Time Warner, Rio Tinto, and Monsanto are not in. Some 15 financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and UBS have not signed up either.
Most of the big Brussels-based consultancy groups are registered, with the exception of Ketchum Pleon Belgium, Aspect Consulting, UK lobby firm Bell Pottinger, and MacBrien Cuper Isnard.
Law firms Covington & Burling and DLA Piper are also missing. Law firms Linklaters and Reed Smith LLP have signed up but fail to disclose information on their clients in violation of the registry requirements, says Alter-EU.
Over 60 percent of the companies lobbying to get the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) ratified are also missing.
In other instances, the stated amount spent by the company on lobbying is questionable.
Alter-EU found 50 cases where companies claim they spend less than one euro per year on lobbying.
The American camera equipment producer, Panavision, is another anomaly. It spent more on lobbying than ExxonMobil, Shell and GDF Suez combined.
But Panavision has no Brussels-based office and is not affiliated with any Brussels-based lobby consultancies or think tanks, says Alter-EU.
In the US, the camera company spent $10,000 on lobbying in 2010 and nothing in 2011. In Brussels, it spends €35 million per year on lobbying.
Alter-EU believes that a mandatory register is necessary if the two EU institutions are sincere in their stated commitments to transparency.
The European Commission, for its part, said the register will come under review next year.
"The question of whether or not to make it compulsory can be looked at again then, along with any other issues arising from two years' experience with the register," institutional affairs spokesperson Antonio Gravili told this website.
In June, the commission launched a new transparency portal where the public can peruse lobbyists and identify the individuals who sit on its expert and advisory committees.
"The transparency portal brings all those tools, and lots more information besides, front and centre - where they belong," said Maros Sefcovic, the EU commissioner responsible for inter-institutional relations.