The new European Commission, which came into power in November 2014, announced that improving the transparency of EU decision making was one of its top priorities. Subsequently, the Commission adopted a decision to publish all meetings of its Vice-Presidents, Commissioners, their cabinets and the Directors-General of the different Directorates-General (DGs) with lobbyists and interest representatives from 1 December 2014 onwards. The rules stipulate that the meetings must be published online within two weeks after they have taken place.
With the lobby meeting reporting obligation in force for more than half a year, ALTER-EU undertook an analysis of the meeting data with Transparency International’s new
online tool IntegrityWatch.eu
The key results are:
1. Lobbyists representing businesses and trade associations continue to dominate the lobbying scene in Brussels, making up 75% of all high-level meetings and more than 80% in certain areas such as financial regulation or the internal market. This contradicts the Commission’s own guidelines on balanced meetings with different stakeholders.
2. The new rules prohibiting meetings with unregistered lobbyists seem to have been mostly effective. However, concerns remain about meetings that take place on the margins of international business summits, such as the World Economic Forum. These events open up opportunities for unregistered lobbyists to hold meetings with high-level officials.
3. The Commission’s own commitment to transparency in lobby meetings seems patchy. For almost all Commissioners, a discrepancy between their published agendas and the lobby meetings listed could be found, suggesting many meetings listed in the agenda that were not reported on afterwards. The commitment of some Commissioners to publish their meetings seems to be decreasing (fewer meetings are published now than at the beginning of the year) and there are strong reasons to suspect under-reporting of lobby meetings in violation of the Commission’s own rules.
In light of these findings, ALTER-EU calls on the European Commission to:
- Take measures to ensure a more balanced representation of stakeholders in high-level Commission meetings, including limiting the number of meetings with big business lobbyists
- Extend the ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists to all levels of the Commission
- Ensure the highest quality of data when publishing lobby meetings, including a fully comprehensive list of lobby meetings and notifi cations of cancelled meetings