This week’s lobby log post looks into the current debate over lobbying transparency in the European Union. Currently steps are being made to make lobbying more transparent through the introduction of a mandatory transparency register. Politico reports, “Negotiations on setting up a mandatory transparency register, which lobbyists and activists would have to sign up to in order to meet with MEPs and senior EU officials, are to begin behind closed doors in the coming months. But lawyers from the Council of the EU, representing governments, have already raised questions about the legality of the plan.”
In 2011 the European Commission, the executive of the E.U. headed by President Juncker, and the European Parliament, composed of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are directly elected by voters in each of the 28 Member States, created a voluntary lobbying register. Politico reports that, “As of Thursday, 11,191 organizations — including consultancies, trade associations and NGOs — had voluntarily signed up to the existing register…The [new] idea is to expand that register, make meetings with senior EU officials conditional on being signed up to it, and give it more staff and resources.” However, lobbyists have also complained that regulations in individual member states overlap the current E.U. initiative. For example, “Ireland…introduced its own register in 2015 which covers meetings with MEPs as well as national politicians,” according to Politico.
The problem historically with creating such a registry in the E.U. has been the Council. “So far, we never got the Council on board,” said Hübner [chair of the Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee] “We never managed to have the three institutions on board and we never managed to make it obligatory.”
The Council is the main-decision making body of the each where “government ministers from each E.U. country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meeting.” The Council opposes the initiate because it argues, “the Commission’s decision to regulate lobbying by using a so-called inter-institutional agreement is problematic — and possibly not legal,” according to a legal opinion obtained by Politico.