Written by Marie Thiel and Elisabeth Bauer,
[Updated 26 April 2016] 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 set up its transparency register in 1995, followed by the Commission in 2008. The two institutions merged their instruments in a joint European Transparency Register (TR) in 2011 on the basis of an Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA). So far, the Council has remained only an observer to the system.
The TR is a voluntary system of registration for entities seeking to directly or indirectly influence the EU decision-making process. It has grown at a rate of around 1 000 organisations a year, to reach over 9 000 organisations today. While it is very difficult to make estimates on the actual coverage of the register, an academic study in 2013 already found the register to cover 60-75% of lobbying organisations active at EU level. In line with the IIA, a political review of the system took place in 2013-2014. As a result, a new improved registration system was introduced in January 2015.
Parliament has been calling for a mandatory register for lobbyists interacting with the EU institutions since 2008. It has argued that a mandatory register would ensure better standards for lobbying and more transparency. The topic has become increasingly prominent, especially since Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put the issue on the political agenda, committing to introduce a proposal for a mandatory system by end 2016, as requested by Parliament. Furthermore, from 1 December 2014 onwards, the Commission publishes information on meetings of Commissioners, members of their cabinets and Directors-General with lobbyists. It is currently running a public consultation on the proposal for a mandatory register.
Laws in Member States on lobbying regulation vary. Mandatory registration systems exist in only a few countries, with the most recent law being introduced in Ireland.
This is an updated edition of a briefing published in December 2014.
Read here the complete Briefing on ‘EU Transparency Register‘ in PDF.