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    Towns and communes refuse to be considered as lobbies

    Since the start of year, towns and communes have had to sign the European Union transparency register, same as private interest groups have since 2011. “If a local elected official wants to contact an EMP, they have to register as a lobbyist. This is totally inacceptable and incomprehensible”, Marc Cools, president of the Brussels-Capital region’s Association of towns and communes, said on Friday. This opinion is widely shared between other local European collectives. They have asked the Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to exempt them from registering as lobbyists again. Local elected officials are not the same as industrialists, says Marc Cools, who is also head councilor for Uccle. “When we turn to the UE, it’s not to defend financial interests, but general interests”.

    Around 60% of the decisions made by local governments are the direct or indirect result of European decisions. It is therefore important that local powers can “participate in drawing up European legislation, so that it can be adapted to the local context and better suit residents”, says Louise-Marie Bataille, General Secretary for the Walloon Union of towns and communes. “Democratically elected decentralised political authorities must be able to talk to European political authorities, without being seen as lobbyists”, she added.

    The concerns expressed by these two associations were passed on to the Council for the Communes and Regions of Europe (CCRE). An open letter addressed to Mr Juncker asks for the exemption from registering as a lobbyist with the EU to be reinstated for local collectives. The letter very clearly criticises local governments being “treated the same as soda producers or car companies”. “Dialogue cannot be bogged down by bureaucracy and forms to fill in”, the CCRE says.

    Jason Bennett (Source: Belga)