EU fails to develop credible transparency rules

3 May 2006

BRUSSELS, 3 May 2006 - The Commission's proposals for the new European Transparency Initiative (ETI) fail to deliver transparency around the role of lobbying in EU decision-making and will not improve public trust in the EU institutions, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) charged today. ALTER-EU will continue to push for a meaningful transparency system during the consultation period which begins with this Green Paper, and urges the Commission to make more effective proposals soon.

The critique came in response to the publication by the EU Commission of the Green Paper on ETI, proposing a voluntary registration system for lobbyists. Entirely missing from the Green Paper are proposals for ending privileged access by commercial lobbyists and on employment of Commission public officials in the private sector ('revolving doors').

ALTER-EU believes that the Commission approach to transparency is totally insufficient and urges the Commission to introduce incentives to ensure registration of all lobbyists. In particular, the alliance makes the following criticisms:

- the Commission fails to propose an effective system of disclosure. Vested interest lobbyists are likely to continue to operate without having to provide information on the financing of their activities;

- it does not address the issue of "revolving doors", where former EU Commission staff take up lobbying posts, nor does it provide for transparency regarding staff working for the Commission under temporary contracts;

- the Commission appears satisfied with current consultation procedures, despite recent cases where the Commission has granted privileged access to lobbyists from the corporate sector, for example the European Services Forum, High Level Working Groups and the Communication on CSR;

- the Commission failed to develop proposals for a code of conduct for ethical behavior for all lobbyists: the Commission cannot leave this to the lobbyists themselves but must show leadership and secure a credible "implementation and sanction mechanism".

Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory said: "The ETI Green Paper lays out an inadequate voluntary approach. An e-mail list announcing upcoming Commission consultations is no credible incentive to ensure comprehensive registration and reporting by EU lobbyists. Those lobbyists who want to stay in the shadow and not reveal their lobbying to the general public will continue to do so under this proposal."

Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The current codes of conduct of public affairs companies are not good because they lack independent monitoring and effective sanctions and leave no role for public scrutiny of lobbying The Commission must apply clear rules with sanctions in case of non-compliance and false registration or else the whole exercise is not credible".

Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace European Unit, noted: "Lobbyism is a thriving and unregulated business. Without rules, big money lobbying undermines democracy. Large corporations invest a lot of money to get access to EU decision-makers, and the public interest loses out."

Ulrich Mueller of LobbyControl said: "A credible system of lobbying transparency is feasible and possible, especially if you look at positive examples in Lithuania, Hungary, Poland the US and Canada. For ALTER-EU, the publication of the ETI Green Paper means the start of a pan-European campaign to prevent the EU Commission from side-stepping the issues and to ensure credible and effective EU lobbying transparency and ethics rules."

http://www.alter-eu.org


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Notes:

1) ALTER-EU is a coalition of over 140 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms calling for: A EU lobbying disclosure legislation; improved code of conduct for European Commission Officials; the European EU Commission to terminate cases of privileged access and undue influence granted to corporate lobbyists.
The call for "Ending corporate privileges and secrecy around lobbying in the European Union", the founding statement of the Alliance for Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) and a list of signatories are available in
www.alter-eu.org.

2) Paul de Clerck, Erik Wesselius, Jorgo Riss and Ulrich Mueller are members of the ALTER-EU steering committee.

3) EU Commissioner Kallas first announced the European Transparency Initiative (ETI) in a flagship speech on 5 March 2005. ETI is among other things intended to correct the current lack of transparency around the over 15,000 lobbyists working to influence the EU institutions.

See: http://europa.eu.int/comm/commission_barroso/kallas/transparency_en.htm