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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Sunday, 20.10.2019, 04:09

Moving towards a European transparency register for lobbyists

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 04.04.2019.Print version
Three EU legislative institutions - the Parliament, Commission and Council – are having a third round of talks in spring 2019 on the proposal for a mandatory “transparency register” for lobbyists working in the EU’s institutions.

Since 2011, the Parliament and the Commission have jointly operated a public register for interest representatives, e.g. lobbyists and think tanks increasing their activities in the EU intuitions’ corridors; the Council has been an observer in the discussions since 2014.


On 15 June 2017, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament approved the Parliament's negotiating mandate and made it public; the Council also adopted the negotiations in December 2017.


Business and citizens in the EU should expect that the EU decision-making process is transparent and open: the more open the process, the easier it is to ensure balanced representation and avoid undue pressure and illegitimate access to decision-makers’ information. Hence, transparency is also a key part of encouraging more active democratic principles in the EU.


The transparency register has been set up to answer core questions such as what interests are being pursued, by whom and with what budgets. The system is operated jointly by the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.


On transparency register see: http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/homePage.do?redir=false&locale=en


Three rounds of talks

The negotiators and discussions among the three EU legislative institutions are going on. In its “Better Regulation Agenda” presented in May 2015, the Commission started a policy-making process to further public discussion on scrutiny and input. New stakeholder feedback mechanisms have already been set up, giving the possibility to make views known to the Commission from the very start of the preparation of an initiative on the basis of roadmaps and inception impact assessments, as well as after a proposal is adopted by the Commission, in order to feed into the legislative process in the Parliament and Council.


The “Transparency Register” is one of the key tools for implementing the Commission's commitment to transparency. It covers all activities carried out with the objective of influencing the law-making and policy implementation processes of the EU institutions.

 

A first Transparency Register was established jointly by the European Parliament and the Commission in 2011; it was updated through an Inter-institutional Agreement (IIA) agreed in April 2014 and applied only to two EU institutions. The current register includes over 9,800 entities bound by the Code of Conduct; its registrants range from public affairs consultancies and law firms to trade and professional associations, NGOs and academic organisations.


In September 2016, the European Commission presented its second proposal for a new inter-institutional agreement on a mandatory Transparency Register among the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission. The proposal aimed at strengthening the framework for transparent and ethical interactions between interest representatives and the three EU institutions by making meetings with lobbyist conditional on them being registered.


The proposal put in place a robust system ensuring the transparency of lobbying activities, building on the existing voluntary register subject to the minimum standards for the first time. Under these proposals, meetings with decision-makers from the three institutions would become conditional on prior registration in the Transparency Register. Since the Commission introduced this rule for its own interactions with interest representatives in November 2014, there were around 4,000 new entries in the register by 2016.


The second proposal also clarified the scope of activities and bodies covered, bolsters the monitoring and effective enforcement of the Register's Code of Conduct for lobbyists and will simplify and improve the quality of data through streamlined input requirements and increased quality control. The Commission proposes to increase the resources available to achieve this objective. Registrants who fail to comply with the Code of Conduct could face temporary suspension of their interactions with the institutions or removal from the Register.

See Commission’s press release on “mandatory transparent register” in:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-3182_en.htm  

 

The three institutions have been exploring ways to make interactions with interest representatives conditional upon their prior registration in the “transparency register”, in order to make registration de facto mandatory for lobbyists. Although the approaches still differ among the three legislative institutions, they reiterated their common desire for a meaningful improvement on the status quo and agreed to continue discussions.


In fact, it is a perfect sign that the Parliament agreed to publish meetings with lobbyists; however, the EU need to move to a Transparency Register which makes it de facto mandatory for lobbyists to register if they want meetings with EU decision-makers; so the work will go on with the three EU institutions on the technical aspects of instruments regarding the Transparency Register, in order to achieve a political agreement between the three institutions as soon as possible.


General reference at:http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-19-1152_en.htm?locale=en

 






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