ANN CAHILL: Register published on EU’s lobbying industry

A REGISTER for companies, interest groups, lawyers and non-governmental organisations involved in the EU’s €1 billion-a-year lobbying industry has been launched.

But it was quickly criticised by NGOs as being weak, especially since registration is voluntary for the estimated 15,000 lobbyists working full time in Brussels.

The register was defended by the Commissioner responsible for fighting fraud, Siim Kallas, who said they won the co-operation of the lobbying industry for the move.

He said he was confident that the individuals and bodies involved in trying to influence the Commission will register and so sign up to a code of conduct.

“It sets out general principles such as openness, honesty and integrity which should guide the activities of interest representatives when they are dealing with the Commission,” he said.

The register will be open to the public to scrutinise online. All submissions made to the Commisison in areas they are preparing draft legislation are published on the internet.

But the fact that it will be voluntary and that companies do not have to name names and say exactly how much they are being paid by clients has been criticised by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (or ALTER -EU).

“This voluntary lobby register is more of a token gesture for transparency than an actual step forward,” said Erik Wesselius of ALTER-EU.

“The Commission is obviously more worried about protecting the identity of lobbyists than it is in increasing transparency and restoring citizens’ trust in the EU at a time when such trust is needed most,” he said.


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