European Transparency Initiative (ETI)
This Communication is a follow-up to the Green Paper on the European Transparency Initiative (ETI) and the subsequent public consultation. It addresses the issues of interest representation, consultation standards and the publication of beneficiaries of EU funds.
Communication from the Commission of 21 March 2007 – Follow-up to the Green Paper ‘European Transparency Initiative’ [COM(2007) 127 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Communication follows up on the Green Paper of 3 May 2006 on the “European Transparency Initiative” (ETI). It responds to the arguments put forth by participants in the consultation (results in the Commission staff working document SEC(2007) 360) and provides measures the Commission intends to take.
Interest representation * (lobbying)
The respondents to the consultation were critical of the negative connotation of the term “lobbying”. The Commission however stresses that the definition does not include any negative value judgement and that lobbying activities are imperative from a democratic point of view. Nevertheless, the register proposed in the Green Paper will be entitled “Register of Interest Representatives”.
The establishment of this Register as a voluntary one received much support. Yet many felt that only a compulsory register would guarantee full transparency. Regardless, the Commission will pursue a voluntary and incentive-based approach in order to cover more comprehensively the European interest representatives. To strengthen the incentive to register, the Commission will combine the Register with a standard template for Internet consultations. Those participating in a consultation will be systematically invited to register. They will have to provide information on the interests they represent, their mission, and how they are funded.
The Green Paper indicated that registered interest representatives* (lobbyists) will need to subscribe to a Code of Conduct. However, the consultation did not address the development or monitoring of such a code in detail. It considered that the responsibility of developing such a code would fall to the interest representatives. But respondents concluded that this would be difficult to carry out in practice. Hence, the Commission will instead review and update the minimum requirements adopted in 1992.
The inter-institutional approach, by which at least the Commission and the European Parliament would have a shared Register and Code of Conduct, received much support from the respondents. The Commission is also in favour of this option, believing it to provide yet another incentive to register. Consequently, it calls on the other institutions to consider this possibility more thoroughly.
Discussions on the Code of Conduct will begin before summer 2007. The Register for Interest Representatives will be launched in spring 2008. The Commission will review the functioning of this Register in spring 2009.
The Commission’s consultation standards received rather positive feedback from the respondents. Nevertheless, certain weaknesses were indicated, such as the provision of feedback on the impact of and the observance of the eight-week time limit for the consultations, as well as the balancing of targeted consultations between the relevant stakeholders. To improve the quality of the consultations, the Commission plans to reinforce the application of the consultation standards with a coordinated approach, assuring that a plurality of views are expressed, and by providing better feedback.
Publication of beneficiaries of EU funds
Following the publication of the Green Paper, the Commission initiated discussions on the publication of information relating to the beneficiaries of EU funds with the Member States, the European Parliament and a wide range of stakeholders. These discussions led to a consensus regarding the publishing of relevant data. Consequently, this has been included into the Financial Regulation.
Apart from the legislative changes, certain practical steps must also be taken. The respondents to the consultation indicated their desire for a searchable and centralised database containing information regarding the beneficiaries of the funds that would be managed by the Commission. However, data collection and publishing remains the responsibility of the implementing bodies in Member States. In order to start publishing relevant data as of 2008, the following steps will be taken in collaboration with the European Data Protection Supervisor:
- publishing of data in its current form, by the Member States through the provision of access to data for the public via, for example, national websites, and by the Commission through the establishment of a central website providing links to national websites and the website on EU funds;
- assuring that data is comparable and searchable, by the Commission through the provision of a common standard for publishing data (to be proposed in autumn 2007).
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