Written by Elisabeth Bauer and Marie Thiel,
Widespread lobbying in the EU institutions has led to criticism regarding the transparency and accountability of the EU’s decision-making process. In response to these concerns, the Parliament and Commission set up the EU Transparency Register. This public database contains entries representing over 75% of the Brussels ‘lobby community’ and is now undergoing not only a major facelift but also the inclusion of provisions to ensure more detailed and accurate content.
Whether professional consultancies, trade associations, NGOs or academic institutions, the number of stakeholders contained in this voluntary registration system has more than doubled over the past 3 years (to over 7,500 currently); any type of organisation that interacts with the EU institutions is invited to sign up and disclose who they are, what they want, who their clients are and what they spend on EU-related activities. Interest group representatives must sign a code of conduct and in return for their commitment to transparency, can apply for authorisation to access European Parliament premises or to sit on a Commission expert group, among other incentives.
So, what’s new? Not only will a new web-based tool make the Register much easier to use, the criteria for signature have also been tightened after a review by the Parliament and Commission, which included stakeholder consultations (resulting in the new inter-institutional agreement). Now both direct and indirect (communication) activities to influence the formulation or implementation of EU policy and the decision-making processes of the EU institutions should be declared, and in more detail than previously. Uncooperative registrants or sanctioned entities will be disbarred and prevented from re-registering. All registrants will need to update their data, in line with new requirements, by end April 2015 or face disbarment.
As the quality of the register improves and new administrative measures take hold, Members and staff of the EU institutions, researchers, academics and the ever-present watchdogs will find it easier to extract data and evaluate who is interested in influencing which EU legislation at any one time.
It doesn’t end there. In April 2014 Parliament called again on the Commission to present a legislative proposal for a mandatory register. Now in the Commission’s Work Programme for 2015 Commission President Juncker has promised to propose a non-legislative mandatory Transparency Register in 2015. It will be interesting to see how this proposal will respond to Parliament’s calls.