The European Commission has identified 23 June 2008 as the target date for the publication of a voluntary lobbyists register and accompanying code of conduct, Administration and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas announced yesterday (8 May) following the adoption in Parliament of a landmark report on lobbying.
The adoption by a large majority of MEPs of the lobbying report during yesterday’s (8 May) plenary session in Brussels represents a key moment in the drive to improve the transparency of the EU institutions and the estimated 15,000 lobbyists who seek to influence them (EURACTIV 30/04/08). 547 members supported the report, amid 24 negative votes and 59 abstentions.
June version ‘not a heavy animal’
The EU executive’s June register “won’t be a heavy animal”, and will serve to provide “a common structure of information” on lobbyists, said Kallas, adding that he is looking forward to cooperating with Parliament on the development of a joint register “soon”.
But the commissioner stressed that launching its own version before the summer will allow the EU executive “to test the practicalities of a register”. The initiative will also provide “valuable practical experience for the future and give all lobbies the opportunity to demonstrate their strong commitment to the cause of transparency and the full legitimacy of their profession,” he said.
Common register to follow
The report adopted in Parliament calls for the creation of a mandatory public register common to all three institutions, providing for “full financial disclosure” and accompanied by a code of conduct complete with a mechanism for expelling lobbyists who infringe its rules (EURACTIV 03/04/08).
Vice President Kallas said the “core elements of the Commission’s proposal” were strongly supported by the report, namely “a broad definition of lobbying, the large scope of actors to be covered, the link to a binding code of conduct, the obligation of financial disclosure and the need to have a common, inter-institutional register”.
The report adopted by MEPs would allow rapporteurs, in charge of steering legislative documents through Parliament, to voluntarily attach lists of which lobbyists were consulted and had a “significant input” to the preparation of their reports. But this practice, the so-called ‘legislative footprint’, would not be made obligatory.
The adopted report defines a lobbyist as “anyone influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of the European institutions,” whether representative of public or private interests or profit or not-for-profit organisations.
This definition includes “NGOs, think tanks, trade associations, trade unions and employers’ organisations” as well as “lawyers when their purpose is to influence policy rather than case law”, “professional lobbyists” and “companies’ in-house lobbyists”.
Financial disclosure requirement
Parliament’s lobbying report stipulates that professional consultancies and law firms will have to “disclose the relative weight of their major clients and the costs associated with lobbying,” while NGOs and think tanks will be required to “state their overall budgets and main sources of funding”.
‘Very solid’ common ground
“There is now very solid common ground for the Commission and Parliament to develop a shared register,” Kallas said.