ALTER-EU has written to all Permanent Representations in Brussels to request the support of member states for comprehensive lobby transparency among the European Union institutions.
ALTER-EU has two main demands: that member states voluntarily endorse the EU lobby transparency regime and commit their Permanent Representation staff to the EU transparency rules, including only meeting with registered lobbyists; additionally, that member states, via the Council, support the creation of a revised and far stronger EU lobby register in the upcoming negotiations with the Commission and the Parliament.
1. Retaining the current definition of lobbying which includes both direct and indirect lobbying. We are concerned about the Commission’s proposal to weaken the definition of lobbying in the transparency register. We feel it is essential to explicitly retain the current definition of lobbying which covers all activities which have the objective of directly or indirectly influencing EU policy-making and decision-making. This will ensure a far greater set of activities are covered by the financial disclosure rules of the register, including the indirect lobbying work performed by many ‘intermediaries’ such as lobby consultancies.
2. Ensuring that no Commissioner, Commission official, MEP, Council official or Permanent Representation official meets with lobbyists who are not part of the EU lobby transparency register. Such provisions would greatly enhance the current voluntary register, by greatly narrowing opportunities for lobbying by unregistered organisations. The Commission’s current proposal (which only includes MEPs, high-level officials in the Commission and high-level officials at the two permanent representations holding the current and next EU presidency), provide too many opportunities for lobbying by unregistered organisations to persist. A 2016 report by ALTER-EU[i] demonstrated how permanent representations to the EU are a great focus of lobbying, both by major corporations and by those who have failed to sign-up to the EU’s voluntary lobby register, and this lobbying should be regulated.
3. Providing resources to the EU lobby transparency register secretariat. In 2015, Transparency International reported that over half the entries in the EU lobby register contained factual errors or implausible numbers. All three EU institutions should urgently devote new resources to the register secretariat to improve the quality of the data, so as to be able to perform a far greater number of checks on declarations each year.
4. Improving the lobby register’s data disclosure requirements. In order to present a reliable picture of lobbying at the EU level, a series of detailed changes to the data requirements in the lobby register are needed that will further boost data quality. These include: all lobby spending to be disclosed to the nearest 10,000 euros (not in the large bandwidths currently used); the names of all individuals lobbying on behalf of a registrant to be listed; all registrants to submit at least two updates per year, and on shared dates. The Commission has not included these in its proposal.
5. A commitment to a legally-binding lobby register in the long-term. A lobby register which is no longer voluntary but is instead backed by the force of law, is essential if all lobbyists are to sign-up, while the possibility of fines or prosecutions will help ensure that more accurate data is provided. The Commission’s proposal makes no progress towards this goal and we urge the Council to join with the Parliament in supporting a legally-binding lobby register in the long-term.