On 1 March, the Commission is launching a 12-week public consultation to gather input on the current regime for registration of interest representatives who seek to influence the work of the EU institutions and on its development into a mandatory lobby register covering the European Parliament and Council of the European Union as well as the Commission.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "This Commission is changing the way we work by consulting stakeholders more and by being open about who we meet and why. We need to go further by establishing a mandatory register covering all three institutions, ensuring full transparency on the lobbyists that seek to influence EU policy making. To help us get this proposal right, we hope to receive as much feedback as possible from citizens and stakeholders from across Europe on how the current system works and how it should evolve. A European Union that is more transparent and accountable is a Union that will deliver better results for citizens."
The Commission has designed a two-part consultation which will allow for input from a broad range of stakeholders, civil society and citizens. The first part of the consultation does not require detailed knowledge of the current Transparency Register and allows non-experts to respond on questions of principle and scope, whilst the second section invites opinions on the practical functioning of the current system from those who use it. The consultation documents are available in all EU languages to encourage broad feedback. The consultation will close on Tuesday 31 May.
The new system, which the Commission intends to propose as a draft inter-institutional agreement, would go beyond the current Register, which is jointly managed by the European Parliament and Commission but is not mandatory in nature and does not cover the Council. The Commission's own internal reforms (see below) have already driven a sharp increase in entries on the Transparency Register: as of 1 March, there are 9286 entries in the current Transparency Register, up from 7020 on 31 October 2014, before the Commission took office and implemented these reforms. The Commission believes that working with the co-legislators in the European Parliament and Council is an important way to ensure that citizens have a full overview of which interest representatives are seeking to influence the legislative process. The public consultation will feed into the proposal the Commission will make later this year.
The Commission has already made significant reforms to its own internal rules to promote greater transparency. Under the Working Methods of the Juncker Commission, as a rule, Commissioners will no longer meet with any organisations which are not listed in the Transparency Register. In line with the Transparency Initiative introduced in November 2014 all meetings between interest representatives and the Commissioners, their Cabinets, and Commission Director-Generals must be published within two weeks of taking place.
In its first year, the Commission published information on more than 6,000 meetings (approximately 5,500 for Commissioners and Cabinets and 600 for Directors-General). The introduction of this new system has effectively made entry on the Transparency Register a mandatory requirement for anybody who wants to meet the most senior EU decision-makers and officials.
President Juncker's Political Guidelines and the Commission's 2016 Work Programme both pledge that the Commission will make a proposal for a new mandatory Transparency Register covering all the EU Institutions. The Commission believes that citizens have the right to know who is trying to influence the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission in the context of the legislative process.
The planned changes to the Transparency Register are part of a broader commitment to reforming EU policy making. In its Better Regulation Agenda presented in May 2015, the Commission committed to open up its policy making process to further public scrutiny and input. New stakeholder feedback mechanisms have already been set up, giving the possibility to make views known to the Commission from the very start of the preparation of an initiative on the basis of roadmaps and inception impact assessments, as well as after a proposal is adopted by the Commission, in order to feed into the legislative process in the Parliament and Council.
Tools also exist for stakeholders to comment on existing legislation within the framework of the REFIT programme. The website "Lighten the Load - Have your say" is already operational and allows citizens to provide feedback on existing EU laws. The contributions received feed into the work of the REFIT Platform, which advises the Commission on areas of legislation which could be reviewed to make EU law more effective and more efficient.
The Commission also adopted a Communication in November 2014 outlining how more transparency will be injected into the negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Commission considers it vital to ensure that the general public has accurate and full information of the EU's intentions in the negotiations.
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