Campaigners disappointed by new EU lobbying text

Publication date: 
Monday, January 27, 2014
Dave Keating
Media title: 
European Voice

A draft agreement on changes to the combined European Parliament and European Commission lobbyist register, endorsed by members of the Parliament's board last week, has been branded “hugely disappointing” by transparency campaigners.


The draft text endorsed by the bureau on 13 January has not yet been published. But a leaked draft seen by European Voice shows that the bureau is provides more details into the results of a review process concluded in December.

The proposed text would not make it mandatory for people and entities lobbying the parliament to sign the register. But it says that people who have signed the register should benefit from better access to Parliament premises.

Other incentives could include “authorisation to organise or co-host events on its premises, facilitated transmission of information including specific mailing lists [or] participation as speakers in committee hearings.”

Transparency campaign group ALTER-EU criticised the proposal, which will be put to a vote by the Parliament's constitutional affairs committee in the coming weeks. The group will release a scorecard today (27 January) assessing the text. Out of the ten ALTER-EU recommendations for reform, five will be assessed as “no progress made” and a further three as “some improvement, more to do”.

“Our scorecard shows that there are only a handful of proposed changes which show improvement,” said Max Bank of LobbyControl, a member of the ALTER-EU steering committee. “Meanwhile it seems unlikely that many of the currently unregistered organisations and law firms will be incentivised to now join.”

The group also criticised the lack of transparency in the review process. Apart from two press releases by the Parliament and the Commission in December, no other documents have been published.

A leaked letter dating from December from Rainer Wieland MEP, the chairman of the register review group, to European Parliament Martin Schultz suggests that a desire by MEPs to have the review call for a mandatory register is being inhibited by the Commission.

The letter, seen by European Voice, notes that both the Parliament's and Commission's legal services have found that the current EU treaties would not allow for a compulsory register.

"In light of the difficult situation, the EP members of the working group believe that a European Parliament  position which examines the proposal for the review of the transparency register should not only confirm and renew its previous decisions calling for the introduction of a compulsory register, but also strongly formulate the expectation that the Commission should promote a political action aimed at the creation of a new legal basis, more appropriate than Article 352 TUE, for the introduction of a mandatory register,” the letter from Wieland states.

“In case the Commission fails to reach this goal, the EP resolution should call on it to submit, by the end of 2016, a proposal for the introduction of a compulsory register based on the currently existing legal basis,” it adds.

The new rules are supposed to be in place by 1 January 2015 at the latest, and MEPs are eager to hold a vote before the current term ends in April. According to sources, centre-left Italian MEP Roberto Gualtieri is likely to be appointed as the rapporteur to guide the legislation through the Parliament.