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Brussels, 21 March 2007

European Transparency Initiative: Commission invites lobbyists and interest groups to subscribe to public register

The Commission today decided to open a public register for all interest representatives working to influence decisions taken in EU institutions. While registration will be voluntary, there are clear rules on what information registrants would have to supply: In whose name am I speaking? What are my goals? How am I funded, and by whom? The initiative offers an opportunity to all interest representatives to underscore that lobbying EU institutions is a legitimate and useful activity, and one that can stand up to full public scrutiny.

Vice-President Kallas said “I hope the lobbying profession will see this as an opportunity, rather than a threat. The Commission needs and appreciates the input it gets from interest representatives, but we ask in return their collaboration in showing to the general public that the relationship respects the rules of democracy. Today, the European institutions are open and accountable – but as every day in Brussels sees the arrival of new lobbyists, it would be reckless and naive not to do everything we can to prevent future abuse of this openness."

How will the interest representative register work?

The Commission takes a broad view of "lobbying", from public affairs consultancies, corporate lobbyists and law firms to NGOs and think tanks.

All these groups or bodies are invited to register publicly whom they represent and what their objectives are. They are invited to declare funding sources and major clients. This ensures the Commission as well as the public can identify and assess the driving forces behind positions taken and interests presented.

Financial disclosure in practice means declaring the turnover linked to lobbying EU Institutions as well as the relative weight per client (for professional consultancies and law firms), the relative share of funding from various sources in relation to total funding (for NGOs, think tanks, etc.) or the cost associated with lobbying (for companies, trade associations, etc.).

The register will be complemented by a code of conduct drawn up by the Commission in discussion with stakeholders. Sanctions will apply in the case of inaccurate information provided or breaches of the code, including publication of offenders if necessary.

The main incentives for groups to register – besides reputational – will be the recognition of their contributions as representative of their specific sectors and the possibility to receive alerts for consultations in their areas of interest. When participating in a public consultation, the Commission will encourage interest groups to register; otherwise their contributions cannot be considered as representative of their sector.

Background and timing

The Commission launched its Transparency Initiative in late 2005[1] and, in a 2006 Green Paper[2], invited the general and professional public to discuss proposed action in lobbying and disclosure of EU beneficiary data, and to provide feedback on the consultation mechanisms in place.

The Commission will launch stakeholder discussions on the code of conduct before summer 2007. It will open the register in spring 2008. After one year of operation, the Commission will evaluate the system, in particular regarding participation. If it proves unsatisfactory, compulsory registration and reporting will be considered.

Commission consultation standards

Contributions following the Green Paper generally welcomed the efforts made. Possible areas for improvement include better feedback on the use made by the Commission of contributions and better time management of public consultations. The Commission will now reinforce the application of its consultation standards, which will also help improve the quality of impact assessments.

Disclosure of beneficiaries of EU funds

The first success for the Transparency Initiative was the EU's commitment in 2006 to make beneficiaries public[3]. In order to reach the goal of presenting data in a searchable and comparable format, and via a central portal, the Commission proposes a practical approach: Start publishing data in the existing format, varying by Member State and programme, and in parallel develop a common approach to eventually ensure consistency of all data.

What's next?

As already announced in the initial Transparency communication, the Commission intends to engage the other EU Institutions in a debate on common ethical standards for public office holders. An extensive comparative study of existing rules in Member States, third countries and international organisations will be available this summer.

All documents as well as the contributions to the Green Paper are available at:

[1] Communication to the Commission on the Transparency Initiative

[2] COM (2006) 194

[3] IP/06/1855

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