Large numbers of businesses, consultancies and industry federations do not intend to sign up to the European Commission’s lobbyists register, found a EURACTIV survey presented at a conference last Wednesday (4 March). But a majority of respondents are supportive of transparency in principle.
55% of federations, 53% of consultancies and 41% of businesses do not intend to participate at all in the voluntary lobbyists register launched by the Commission last June (EURACTIV 24/06/08), according to the survey, presented at the eighth annual conference of the European Centre for Public Affairs (ECPA) in Brussels.
Nevertheless, the majority of federations, consultancies and businesses are appreciative of the EU’s transparency initiative (ETI) and support transparency in general, while small numbers of all three categories said they will likely join in 2009 or 2010.
Corporate respondents have been quicker to sign up to the register than consultancies and federations, according to the limited survey sample. Over half (55%) of corporate respondents have already joined, while consultancies (33%) and federations (17%) have been slightly slower off the mark.
One industry insider, who did not wish to be named, suggested this shows that the corporate world may consider registration necessary to maintain reputations.
Public affairs practitioners would like to see further clarification of a number of issues related to the register launched by the European Commission last year, including financial disclosure and the distinction between direct lobbying and other advocacy activities.
Professionals are also equally divided as to the ETI’s future, with a majority of corporate respondents (27%) expecting the scheme to become mandatory but remain similar. 34% of federations expect the register to remain voluntary, while 28% of consultancies expect it to be simplified.
Commenting on the survey’s findings, a prominent Brussels lobbyist suggested that the EU executive “could do more to communicate with the public affairs community to encourage registration”.
Other factors identified by the survey as preventing consultancies from registering include the excessive amount of data required (30%) or risks that such data will be misused (19%).
The majority of organisations spend over half of their EU public affairs budgets in Brussels, but less than a quarter of this goes on direct lobbying.
The Commission plans to evaluate the success of the lobby register’s first year this summer.