Hailing the launch of the register as "a remarkable moment", Administration and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas described how lobby organisations were intensively competing to be the first to sign up by yesterday lunchtime.
"It is now up to lobbyists to demonstrate they are serious over the next twelve months while the Commission sorts out the technicalities," Kallas said.
The register "will serve as a testing ground" for the feasibility of a register common to all EU institutions - Commission, Parliament and Council, the commissioner said earlier last month (EurActiv 29/05/08).
At the end of this one-year 'experimental phase', the Commission will assess whether it has been effective in increasing the transparency of lobbying activities in Brussels.
The register features three main categories of lobbyists: "professional consultancies and law firms," "corporate lobbyists and trade associations" and "NGOs and think tanks." The requirements for inclusion in the register vary for all three:
- Professional consultancies and law firms: Signatories in this first category must disclose total revenue related to lobbying the EU institutions, either by placing their clients in boxes representing absolute amounts (brackets of €50,000) or percentages (brackets of 10%).
- Corporate 'in-house' lobbyists and trade associations: This second category must provide an estimate of their costs associated with the direct lobbying of all the EU institutions.
- NGOs and think-tanks: Those wishing to be included in the third category must publish the overall budget of their organisation and indicate their main sources of funding, for example public monies (European, national or sub-national).
Lobbyists wishing to register must also either sign up to the Commission's 'Code of Conduct for Interest Representatives' or abide by their own equivalent lobbyists code with identical or more stringent requirements.
In return for fulfilling these criteria, registered lobbyists will receive alerts from the EU executive giving details of upcoming public consultations on policy areas of interest to them.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Kallas has been appointed as the EU executive's representative on a working group to work in conjunction with the Council and the Parliament to develop a proposal for a common, mandatory register for all three institutions by the end of the year. "The working group is ready to produce good results," said the commissioner.