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23rd Sep 2018

EU lawyers support mandatory lobby register

  • Lobbyists in Brussels back plans to create a mandatory lobbying register (Photo: The European Union)

A top EU bar association wants a mandatory lobbying register imposed in Brussels that includes lawyers.

"We believe it would be better if the EU moves to a mandatory system with ideally, a proper legal basis," Simone Cuomo, spokesperson at the Brussels-based Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) told this website on Monday (6 June).

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The move marks a possible big leap given past reluctance by lawyers to disclose their client lists to the general public. Cuomo said such disclosures would still require client consent.

The EU's current lobby register is voluntary and is shared jointly by the European Commission and the European Parliament. The two institutions also oversee the register.

But Cuomo says the register should be controlled by an independent body and not one that is both the "party and judge". He noted lawyers are often in court against the EU institutions.

"You just won a case and the Commission was an opponent and two weeks later you get a nice letter saying that you are not following the rules in the transparency register. There might be a direct link," he said.

CCBE, he said, also backs imposing sanctions for those who break the rules but only if the body is independent.

Similar registers in Canada and the US include lawyers. While in Europe, few aside lawyers from the UK and Ireland have backed a mandatory register.

"The French and the Belgian lawyers have actually come around on this," said Daniel Freund, at the Transparency International (TI) office in Brussels.

"The only ones blocking it at this point are the politicians," he noted.

Other big lobbying groups based in Brussels also support setting up a mandatory register.

The Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) and the European Public Affairs Consultancies' Association (EPACA) want it.

In a joint letter signed by TI among others, the lobbyist groups says "it’s time for a robust and credible transparency regime".

The EU commission, for its part, is to propose an inter-institutional agreement on a mandatory register sometime near the end of the year. The proposal will also include bringing the Council, representing member states, into the joint register.

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