Brussels, 23 June 2011
Q's & A's: Transparency Register
How can I access the Transparency Register?
The Transparency Register web interface is accessible on the internet: http://europa.eu/transparency-register. The interactive registration process is available online, only through this web interface. The Transparency Register secretariat will not accept or operate any paper based registration.
Who is expected to register?
All organizations and self-employed individuals engaged in “activities carried out with the objective of directly or indirectly influencing the formulation or implementation of policy and decision-making processes of the EU institutions” are expected to register. These activities include: contacting members or officials of the EU institutions, preparing, circulating and communicating letters, information material or argumentation and position papers, organising events, meetings or promotional activities (in the offices or in other venues). This also includes activities that are part of formal consultations on legislative proposals and other open consultations.
What falls outside the scope of the register?
Activities of legal and other professional advice, when they relate to the exercise of the fundamental right to a fair trial of a client, including the right of the defence in administrative proceedings.
Activities of the social partners when they are part of the Social Dialogue; this applies mutatis mutandis to any entity specifically designated in the Treaties to play an institutional role.
Activities in response to direct and individual requests from EU institutions or Members of the European Parliament such as ad hoc or regular requests for factual information, data or expertise and/or individualised invitations to attend public hearings or to participate in the workings of consultative committees or in any similar forum.
Why not just call it a Lobby Register?
Registration shows that an organisation interacts with the European institutions, and provides the minimum elements of information which are required to ensure openness towards citizens about who is engaged in this type of activity. The motivation for this engagement can be business interests, but it can also be a political, social, academic, cultural or other motivation. It does not mean that those registering can be labelled 'lobbyists', in particular as there is no commonly agreed definition of this word. The scope of the register, while including what is generally understood by the term “ lobbying”, is much wider than that, encompassing all the activities covered by Article 11 of the Treaty (TEU) on participatory democracy.
Are law firms, trade unions and employers/trade organisations expected to register?
Yes, they are expected to register if they are engaged in activities falling under the scope of the register. It is not the nature of the organisation which is the determining factor for registration, but the nature of the activities in which the organisation is engaged. However, activities of law firms, public affairs consultants, certified accountants etc. giving assistance to a client for an individual case submitted to the Court of Justice or directly related to a competition case, or an access-to-document request handled by the Commission services do not fall within the scope of the Register. A comparable situation exists when Trade Unions or employer's organisations participate in meetings in the framework of the Social Dialogue. They need not register for this purpose.
On the other hand, if the same law firm, public affairs consultant, Trade Union or employer’s organisation takes initiatives outside this framework to promote a specific position in relation to European policies or future legislation, it falls within the scope of the transparency register as defined by the inter-institutional agreement, and should register.
Are small organisations, or individual lobbyists, also expected to register?
Yes, they are. There is no minimum threshold in terms of membership, turnover, or number of employees. However, the Transparency Register is built for the registration of organisations. Individuals are not expected to register unless they are self-employed individuals working under contract for the representation of their clients.
Will organisations with no office in Brussels be expected to register?
Yes. The location of an organisation's office plays no role: if its activities fall within the scope of the Transparency Register as defined by the inter-institutional agreement, it is expected to register.
Are regional and local public authorities expected to register?
Local, regional and municipal authorities are not expected to register. Nevertheless, should such a public entity, for reasons of its own, wish to enter the register, it may do so. This is why a section is available for this purpose.
However autonomous structures, with a private legal status, which include sub-national public authorities along with private interests, created in order to pursue activities falling within the scope of the Register, would be expected to register.
Are there privileges attached to registration?
There are no privileges attached to registration. Registration does not constitute an accreditation and does not lead to access to any privileged information. This is why registered organisations should not present their registration as an accreditation or any form of official recognition by the European institutions.
So why should anybody bother signing up?
As far as the European Commission is concerned: there are two practical consequences of registration:
When signing up, registrants can indicate the policy areas in which they are interested. When public consultations are launched in those areas by the European Commission, registered organisations will receive an e-mail alert, if they wish.
The Commission is committed to the publication of all the contributions received in its public consultations. Not being registered will not affect the right of an organisation to contribute to public consultations. But, as stated in the Commission's common standards for consultation, "interested parties must themselves operate in an environment that is transparent, so that the public is aware of the parties involved in the consultation processes and how they conduct themselves. It must be apparent which interests they represent." For that purpose, the Commission will list the contributions from unregistered contributors as individual contributions, separately from those from registered contributors which agree to comply with these transparency requirements.
As far as the European Parliament is concerned: access cards to the European Parliament's buildings for individuals representing, or working for, organisations falling within the scope of the Transparency Register, will only be issued if those organisations or individuals have registered. However, registration will not confer an automatic entitlement to such a card.
How do we know that all the information published in the register is correct?
The Transparency Register secretariat does not check and validate entries upon registration. All factual information in the register is provided under the sole responsibility of the registrant bound by the obligations established by the code of conduct. However the secretariat reserves the right to make regular random or targeted checks to detect possible mistakes, errors, and intended or unintended omissions. When encountering such a situation, the secretariat will contact the registrant about the problem identified. Should the registrant refuse to correct false or incorrect information, the secretariat will apply the procedures of the complaint and sanctions mechanism.
Will the register be updated?
Registrants should update their information rapidly if there has been a significant change in any of the reporting requirements. Otherwise, the minimum requirement is to update the information once a year. Registered organisations will be warned by email four weeks before this deadline. If this update has not been done, the registrant's information will no longer be publicly accessible and after a short delay, the registrant will be deleted from the database.
Will the Commission publish all the data provided?
Yes, any information entered in the register will be public. The only exception to this rule is the information on the contact person designated for the register's operations, and its back up, which will be used internally only.
Is the Register free of charge, or will registrants have to pay any fee?
Registration is free of charge.
How was the Code of Conduct drafted?
The proposed Code of Conduct builds on existing earlier standards, in particular, the Minimum Requirements adopted in 1992. It takes into account existing professional codes of conduct, such as those developed by public affairs practitioners. It was negotiated and adopted by the European Parliament and the European Commission.
What is in the Code of Conduct?
In their relations with the EU institutions and their Members, officials and other staff, registrants shall:
always identify themselves by name and by the entity or entities they work for or represent; declare the interests, objectives or aims promoted and, where applicable, specify the clients or members whom they represent;
not obtain or try to obtain information, or any decision, dishonestly, or by use of undue pressure or inappropriate behaviour;
not claim any formal relationship with the EU or any of its institutions in their dealings with third parties, nor misrepresent the effect of registration in such a way as to mislead third parties or officials or other staff of the EU;
ensure that, to the best of their knowledge, information which they provide upon registration and subsequently in the framework of their activities within the scope of the register is complete, up-to-date and not misleading;
not sell to third parties copies of documents obtained from any EU institution;
not induce Members of the EU institutions, officials or other staff of the EU, or assistants or trainees of those Members, to contravene the rules and standards of behaviour applicable to them;
if employing former officials or other staff of the EU or assistants or trainees of Members of the EU institutions, respect the obligation of such employees to abide by the rules and confidentiality requirements which apply to them;
observe any rules laid down on the rights and responsibilities of former Members of the European Parliament and the European Commission;
inform whomever they represent of their obligations towards the EU institutions;
Individuals representing or working for entities which have registered with the European Parliament with a view to being issued with a personal, non-transferable badge affording access to the European Parliament's premises shall:
comply strictly with the provisions of Rule 9 of, and Annex X and the second paragraph of Article 2 of Annex I to, the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure;
satisfy themselves that any assistance provided in the context of Article 2 of Annex I to the European Parliament's Rules of Procedure is declared in the appropriate register;
in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest, obtain the prior consent of the Member or Members of the European Parliament concerned as regards any contractual relationship with or employment of a Member's assistant, and subsequently declare this in the register.
Can organisations register without committing themselves to the Commission's Code of Conduct?
No. Signing the register’s Code of Conduct is a compulsory step for registration.
How does the complaint procedure work and what sanctions can be applied?
Complaints made by the public or other stakeholders will be analysed individually by the joint Transparency Register secretariat. It will first check if the complaint is substantiated by material facts submitted by the complainant. If this is the case, and before a formal process is launched, the secretariat will launch an informal process to clarify the issue with the registered entity and to invite it to clarify whether the complaint is well founded. If it is, the entity will be asked to conform to the rules or to correct any false or misleading information in the register. The secretariat may start an administrative process to examine possible sanctions. This process will respect proportionality and the rights of defence. The following sanctions may be applied in cases of violation of the rules of the Code:
Temporary suspension from the register for a set period or until correction of the situation by the registered entity. Suspension means withdrawal of all benefits of registration. The offending entity and the complainant will be notified of the decision.
Exclusion from the register in cases of severe and/or persistent failure to comply with the Code. The secretariat will notify the offending entity and complainant of the decision.
Withdrawal, where applicable, of any access cards to the European Parliament.