Proposed extension of lobbying reforms described as ‘timid’

The European Commission has proposed a mandatory Transparency Register aimed at allowing the public to know which decision-makers are meeting with which lobbyists. The proposal extends existing rules on declaring lobbying to MEPs and the Council of Ministers, but a leading anti-corruption NGO says the changes are ‘timid and cosmetic’.

After a series of scandals in which senior figures in the Commission were found to have been strongly influenced by lobbying, the Commission wants to reform the Transparency Register, which records meetings between EU personnel and representatives from industry and civil society. The Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has made tightening up of lobbying rules one of his 10 priorities for his period in office.

The Commission introduced a rule in November 2014 which requires any official who has a meeting with an outsider to ensure the outsider is listed in the EU register of lobbyists, and to log the meeting in the Transparency Register. It now wants to extend this rule to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, but there are severe limitations in the proposals. The mid-level staff who write the first drafts of many EU proposals will still be exempt from the rules, and member states have made it clear that their permanent representatives to the EU must not be covered, which limits the scope for lobbying of the Council to be open and transparent.

The EU office of Transparency International, which campaigns against corruption, said the proposal ‘only makes timid suggestions’, and added: ‘The European Parliament and the Council are where the resistance to reform is coming from.’