21st Jun 2021

EU transparency register riddled with errors

  • Over a hundred major companies that lobby EU officials are missing from the EU's joint-transparency register. (Photo:

Incomplete listings and false information by lobbyists in the EU's joint transparency register are among some of the latest findings in a report by transparency group Alter-EU.

Published on Thursday (20 June), the report says the voluntary register, which compiles companies and groups that lobby the European Parliament and the European Commission, “is unconvincing at best, and dismal at worst.”

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Over 100 major companies known to be lobbying EU officials are missing.

They include Adidas, Apple, General Motors Europe, Heineken, Porsche, Rio Tinto, Disney, Shanks Group, SAP, Time Warner, Nissan, and Northrop Grumman.

Top banks are also missing, such as Banco Santander, BBVA Group, Belfius (formerly Dexia), la Caixa, Erste Group Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Nomura, Nordea, Rabobank, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swedbank and UBS.

Goldman Sachs, for its part, met with economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn three times between January 2011 and February 2012.

In the same period, over 60 percent of Rehn’s meeting were with unregistered lobby companies.

Alter-EU says some of the details in the register are not credible and that listed budgets are under-reported.

According to the register, the medium-sized French insurance company IRCEM tops the lobbying budget list with some €55 million spent in 2011.

IRCEM has no office in Brussels.

But its declared spending exceeds the combined lobby expenditures of BNP Paribas, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, Ford, Unilever, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Shell, GDF Suez, British Airways, Microsoft, Bayer, IBM, STATOIL, Syngenta, Ericsson and Nokia.

Other smaller companies with no Brussels-based offices - in the kitchen appliance industry, for instance - also express unusually high lobby budgets.

“It is clearly not credible that small printing or fridge companies are spending more on EU lobbying than far larger and more politically active companies such as Shell, Google or BNP Paribas,” Alter-EU said.

Around 55 smaller to medium-sized lobby consultancies based in Brussels are also not listed.

MEPs want the register to be mandatory but the commission favours a voluntary-based system.

Alter-EU’s Paul de Clerk says a mandatory register would solve a lot of the errors and omissions.

He points out that a legal basis under the Lisbon Treaty exists to create a mandatory register.

“The commission should use the review process to begin making the necessary legislative proposal,” he said in a statement.

Correction : The Alter-EU report incorrectly stated German former centre-right MEP Ingo Friedrich failed to register his consultancy group European Communications in the transparency register. In fact, European Communications was registered but was removed from the registry when Friedrich shut down the offices in Brussels and Munich in 2012. European Communications' website, however, remained active. This article was updated on Friday (12 July).

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