United for a mandatory register of lobbyists15 October 2015
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in Europe (ALTER-EU) and Transparency International (TI) acknowledge the political promises to increase transparency and integrity and the concrete steps that the upper levels of the Commission have taken in terms of only meeting with registered lobbyists and the publication of those meetings online.
Both organisations have long advocated for increased lobbying transparency. It is vital to reduce unethical lobbying, prevent undue influence and to ensure equality of access for all actors and organisations that seek to influence the decision-making processes.
On the other they we are concerned that the process promised by the Commission has not moved further in recent months. The expected proposal for a new Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA) on a “mandatory Transparency Register” has not yet been delivered by the Commission. They ask the EP to ensure that the Commission prioritises and progresses the new IIA without any further delay.
They also request that the European Parliament stands by previous commitments to support a legally-binding lobby register. A legislative proposal has been demanded several times by the Parliament (in May 2008, May 2011 and most recently in April 2014) and it appears to us that this is an overdue and urgent necessity. Only through such a legislative proposal will the register become legally binding on lobbyists. Problems like law firms not joining or not disclosing their clients, and the lack of effective administrative sanctions in the current register require a legal approach.
This means that additional measures are necessary to ensure that unregistered lobbyists can no longer influence the EU decision-making process. Such measures should include:
- Only registered lobbyists should be able to get meetings. MEPs, especially the president, the vice-presidents, group presidents, committee chairs and rapporteurs as well as shadow-rapporteurs, should only meet with, or attend events organised by, registered lobbyists. It should be clear that those that do not provide a minimum of transparency and do not respect the basic rules laid out in the Code of Conduct for lobbyists would not be welcome in the Parliament.
- Lobbyists must be on the register should they wish to have access to Parliamentary premises for lobbying purposes. Visitors who are not on the register should sign a declaration that they are not a lobbyist when entering the Parliament.
- Lobbyists must be on the register should they wish to advise the Parliament as part of parliamentary hearings, inter-groups or in any other advisory function.
- Lobbyists must be on the register should they wish to organise or attend events at the Parliament, including those organised by third parties.
Furthermore, there is a strong role for the Parliament to ensure that:
- The public can verify that the above principles are respected by publishing meetings with lobbyists online, in the same way that the Commission has started to do since December 2014.
- More capacity and resources should be provided to the register secretariat so that they can properly monitor registrations and increase the number of checks to ensure that registrants’ information is meaningful, accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive.
- When lobby groups breach the rules of the register, the secretariat often only asks them to correct the data, without applying a sanction. This approach provides no incentive to avoid mis-reporting. We recommend that stronger sanctions are applied.
- Entries of all registrants which have been suspended or removed from the register should be kept and should remain visible to the public. This would make suspension or removal a more obvious sanction and allow the public to see past entries and track changes.
The full text of the open letter can be accessed here.