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Tiny steps forward insufficient to regain public trust

28 September 2016
by altereu -- last modified 28 September 2016

The European Commission has today published its proposal for a new inter-institutional agreement on the lobby transparency register, and the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) makes the following reaction:


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"The Commission's response is too little too late. If you look at the political situation in Europe, the Commission should do its utmost to regain public trust. People want to know who their leaders are really working for, especially in the light of the scandals of former Commissioners Barroso and Kroes taking on high-level jobs with big multinational companies. This could have been an opportunity to set out a bold and radical programme for transparency and ethics reform, but instead the Juncker Commission simply demands action from others. This attempt to take the moral high ground is shameless and very disappointing", said Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe – an ALTER-EU steering committee member.

Responding to the Commission's announcement that it will not extend its own ban on high-level officials meeting with unregistered lobbyists and that the proposed new register will be "mandatory" but not legally-binding,  Nina Katzemich, LobbyControl (an ALTER-EU steering committee member) said:

"So long as Commission officials who influence and draft legislation are able to meet with unregistered lobbyists; and so long as there are no powers to fine, prosecute or levy other sanctions on the lobbying law firms and others that continue to boycott it or upload dodgy data; the register will remain a flawed tool. The Commission first presented the idea of a lobby transparency register in 2005, but more than 10 years later the Commission still fails to deliver the single most important element, a legal act, that would make this register binding on all lobbyists." Responding to the Commission's announcement that it will "simplify" the financial disclosure requirements on lobby consultancies, and "streamline" the definition of lobbying used in the register, Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory (an ALTER-EU steering committee member) said:

"The data in today's register is massively unreliable and reducing the financial information that lobbyists-for-hire have to provide sends entirely the wrong signal. We need more and better disclosure, not less. And if the Commission proposes any weakness whatsoever in the definition of lobbying, we will strongly oppose that. "

Responding to the Commission's announcement that it will invite the Council, specifically its Secretariat and the rotating presidency member, to join the lobby register, Andreas Pavlou, Access Info Europe (an ALTER-EU steering committee member) said:

"The proposal to include the Council secretariat and top staff in the rotating presidencies in the lobby transparency regime is not enough to ensure full transparency of lobbying activities at the EU level. Our research has shown that corporate lobbyists, registered or not, are knocking on the doors of all the permanent representations all the time, not just the rotating presidencies. Today's disappointing announcement will not significantly alter lobbyists' interactions with member states on EU matters, which will remain a transparency black hole in the EU lobby register regime."

Despite the major limitations to the proposal, ALTER-EU welcomes the Commission's plan to increase the use of suspensions in the register (one of the few options available under a non-legally binding register); and firmly encourages decision-makers in the Parliament and Council to refuse to meet with unregistered lobbyists. More emphasis on checking data is also welcome but substantial resources will have to be allocated if the ALTER-EU proposed target to check 20 per cent of registrations each year is to be met.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of over 200 public interest groups and trade unions concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms.

Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU)
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