A mandatory public register for lobbyists, common to the Council, Commission and Parliament and providing for "full financial disclosure", was proposed by the European Parliament. Lobbyists would also have to comply with a code of conduct and face sanctions if they infringed it. MEPs voted in favour of a mandatory public register of lobbyists. MEPs backed a "one-stop-shop" proposal, whereby lobbyists would need to register only once to have access to Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
During the debate, all groups' speakers expressed general support for the report. Ingo FRIEDRICH (EPP-ED, DE), rapporteur, commented on an amendment tabled by the liberal group to include churches in the list of lobbying organisations, saying: "churches are partners according to the treaties, not lobbying". Carlos CARNERO GONZÁLEZ (PES, ES) said socialists will support two amendments tabled by the Greens, one of which calls for the register to be into force before the 2009 EP elections.
Anneli JÄÄTTEENMÄKI (ALDE, FI) explained that the ALDE group is particularly pleased for the decision to make the register mandatory, as advocated by them. Ryszard CZARNECKI (UEN, PL) expressed support for a joint register and said: "Our constituencies have the right to know who lobbyists are". Monica FRASSONI (Greens/EFA, IT) said: "There is a tendency to underrate the effectiveness of lobbying work". She also said that lawyers, when trying to influence legislation, should be considered as lobbyists, even when providing legal advice. Sylvia-Yvonne KAUFMANN, from GUE/NGL group, said having clear rules on lobbying is "crucial for credibility for EU legislation". Finally, Jens-Peter BONDE (IND/DEM, DK) said the EU should follow the example of the US regime on lobbying: "Why can't we be as transparent?" he concluded.
Mandatory common register
MEPs voted in favour of a mandatory public register of lobbyists. MEPs also backed a "one-stop-shop" proposal, whereby lobbyists would need to register only once to have access to Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
To this end, MEPs suggested that the three institutions set up a joint working group without delay, to prepare a proposal on the common register by the end of 2008.
"Full financial disclosure" and sanctions foreseen
According to the resolution, lobbyists will have to abide by a code of conduct. A mechanism will be provided for expelling those who infringe the rules. MEPs also called for lobbyists' conduct to be closely monitored, sanctions in the event of misbehaviour and sufficient human and financial resources to verify the information included in the register.
Moreover, MEPs suggested that the mandatory register should include "full financial disclosure" by lobbyists. Professional consultancies and law firms in particular would have to disclose the relative weight of their major clients and the costs associated with lobbying. NGOs and think tanks would be required to state their overall budgets and main sources of funding.
The inter-institutional working group is also expected to propose specific criteria for financial disclosure.
Who is a lobbyist?
MEPs acknowledge that lobbyists can provide useful expertise, but considered it essential for them to be able to identify the organisations represented by lobby groups.
MEPs defined a lobbyist as anyone "influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of the European institutions". Both public and private interest representatives and profit and non-profit organisations, when regularly influencing the institutions, may therefore be considered lobbyists. The approved report also lists NGOs, think tanks, lawyers (when they are not providing legal assistance or legal advice), trade unions and employers' associations.
The "legislative footprint"
The EP also decided that rapporteurs should be permitted to attach to their reports an indicative list of lobbyists who were consulted and had a "significant input" during the preparation of the text.
MEPs suggested that this "legislative footprint", as the rapporteur described it, should also be used by the Commission, for its legislative initiatives.
The European Parliament has had a voluntary register of lobbyists and a code of lobbying conduct in place for the past ten years. The rapporteur estimated that there are about 15,000 lobbyists, and 2,500 lobby organisations, in Brussels. A count of permanent visitors’ badges and “express” badges, suggests that there are approximately 5,000 lobbyists operating in the EP.
- Development of the framework for the activities of interest representatives (lobbyists) in the European institutions
- Text, as adopted by the EP
- A study on lobbying practices in the EU
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