Wednesday

22nd Jan 2020

Top EU institutions to use joint lobbyist register

  • To win access to the parliament, lobbyists will have to sign up to the registry (Photo: EUobserver)

The curtain behind which lobbyists hide in the European capital was drawn back a little more on Wednesday (11 May) after the European Parliament backed a joint register of lobbyists for both the chamber and the European Commission.

Until now the, two institutions had separate listings of the lobbyists who approach deputies and officials attempting to bend legislation, registries which have suffered from widespread criticism from democracy campaigners for the questionable accuracy of the information contained within them and for the voluntary nature of the disclosure process.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

With the new ‘one-stop shop' lobby register - or ‘transparency register' as it will now be called - the rules have been tightened and fresh staff have been assigned to monitor foul play.

Signing up to the registry however remains voluntary as before - perhaps the main beef transparency campaigners have had with the process, who say that many of the estimated 15-20,000 lobbyists resident in Brussels have yet to sign the existing listing.

But in what both MEPs and campaigners called a "step forward", lobbyists will for the first time have an incentive to sign up, as those who do not will not be awarded an access badge to the parliament's buildings.

The parliament has also endorsed a process whereby leading MEPs must list all the meetings they have with lobbyists in what they are calling a "legislative footprint annex".

There are also new procedures for complaints and sanctions, facets missing from the previous lobby registries.

The chamber's chief, President Jerzy Buzek, welcomed the advance: "We need advocacy and lobby groups for knowing what impact our legislation might have on different groups of people and companies, but we must make sure that nobody influences decisions through illicit means."

MEPs also called on the EU's Council of Ministers, the third of the bloc's triumvirate of institutions and representing the member states, to join the joint registry. The Council has consistently refused to involve itself in transparency initiatives, although it has indicated moves to do so in the future.

Campaigners welcomed the development but said they were "disappointed" that there was no majority in the house to support tougher financial reporting in the register.

"The recent cash-for-amendments scandal highlighted that a softly-softly approach towards EU lobbying transparency does not work," said paul de Clerck of Alter-EU, a transparency pressure group.

Without tougher reporting standards, the group said, companies and lobby groups would continue to low-ball the estimates of the money they spend on influencing the legislative system. They gave the example of Colipa, the cosmetics industry lobby outfit, which reported that they spent just €50,000 in 2008, yet they maintain a staff of 20 lobbyists and support workers in Brussels.

BusinessEurope, the association representing the interests of the biggest industries in Europe and perhaps the most influential corporate lobbying group in the city, recorded that it spent between €550,000 and €600,000, a figure Alter-EU says is also unrealistically low.

The new-model joint registry is also designed to encourage groups such as churches and think-tanks who do not consider themselves to be 'lobbyists' sensu stricto to sign up.

Opinion

There is life after the Commission

The Commission has just extended the "cooling-off period" for retiring Commissioners from 12 to 18 months, but the rules are still inadequate, writes Roland Vaubel, Professor of Economics at the University of Mannheim.

Exclusive

Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe

A Polish official seeking to become president of the European Economic Social Committee, a minor EU institution, could face Belgian charges for psychological harassment after the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf alerted authorities.

Catalan MEPs Puigdemont and Comin look for a party

The former head of the Catalan regional government, Carles Puigdemont, and one member of his government, Toni Comín, have requested to join the Greens/EFA group - but they do not close the door to other political groups.

Exclusive

Big Oil sponsors Croatia's EU presidency

Croatia's national oil company has become the EU council presidency's "official gasoline supplier" - in a move that appears to clash with aspirations of the European Green Deal. Critics say such sponsorships pose a reputational risk with the wider public.

Parliament calls for citizens' 'agoras' to shape future EU

Details have been revealed by the European Parliament of its proposals on how to conduct the two-year post-Brexit reform exercise of the EU. But a final format will have to be determined in talks with member states and the commission.

News in Brief

  1. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  2. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  3. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said
  4. MEPs give first green light to Vietnam trade deal
  5. Thunberg denounces inaction of global leaders in Davos
  6. Talks with US on digital tax still 'difficult', France says
  7. Over 80 NGOs demand end to EU gas subsidies
  8. EU to enforce Libya arms ban via old naval mission

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us