13th Apr 2021

EU moves towards mandatory lobbyists register

Commission and parliament have formed a joint working group on Tuesday (16 December) aimed at drawing up a proposal for a common register for the over 15,000 EU lobbyists by mid-2009, amidst criticism from NGOs regarding the influence of big business on the EU executive when drafting legislation.

A "de facto mandatory" register for EU lobbyists, merging the existing mandatory list from the European Parliament with the voluntary financial interests register set up by the EU commission might be designed by mid-2009, Kristian Schmidt, deputy head of cabinet for administration and anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas told EUobserver.

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  • The EU commission "married" non-transparent business interests, NGOs say. (Photo: EUobserver)

He said that the EU council, the decision-making body formed by 27 governments and with its own administrative and legal service, was also invited to this joint working group, but did not attend. "We can't wait for the council," Mr Schmidt added.

The working group is formed of commissioner Kallas and MEPs Diana Wallis, Ingo Friedrich and Jo Leinen. It is expected to present proposals before the European elections in June 2009.

"Items to be discussed will include the objectives of a common framework for the activities of interest representatives (lobbyists), its main features - such as coverage, nature and scope of the information disclosed, code of conduct, complaint and sanctions – possible specifications for a "one-stop shop", as well as the technical and financial implications of this single register," a commission statement reads.

The aim of the proposal would be to "give the general public a single entry point to a comprehensive overview of the role of lobbyists in the EU decision-making bodies."

Non-transparent lobbying at the commission

Meanwhile, Alter-EU, a coalition of over 160 civil society groups advocating for EU lobbying disclosure legislation was still criticising the commission for defending the prominent role of business interests in drafting EU legislation.

The commission defended the presence of business representatives in its expert groups which help draft legislation by pointing to their expertise, an Alter-EU statement reads.

"Even the commission's own guidelines are being violated as expert groups including the one on biotechnology and on coal are completely controlled by industry," Alter-EU campaigner Yiorgos Vassalos said.

The guidelines say that "all relevant interests in society should have an opportunity to express their views" and that the risk "of vested interests distorting the advice in expert groups should be minimised and a diversity of viewpoints" resulting "from differences in scientific approach, different types of expertise, different institutional affiliations" should be collected.

"The commission has said it will publish details of who sits on expert groups, but this will not include the details of anyone who seeks anonymity. This is not acceptable. Some expert groups have a huge influence on highly controversial areas of policy, yet their members are not even known to the public, let alone held accountable," Mr Vassalos added.

Alter-EU had demanded full disclosure of the working groups and claims the commission keeps the names or organisations of advisers in half of the expert groups secret, while basic information was missing for two thirds of them.

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