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Creation of an EU lobby transparency registery

Campaigners have called on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal for a legally-binding lobby register by the end of 2015.

They say that “too many” major lobby organisations are not listed in the lobby transparency register despite being “active” in EU lobbying.

It is claimed these include financial lobbyists the City of London Corporation and Credit Suisse; major corporations such as Electrabel, Anglo American and General Motors; law firms such as Covington & Burling and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; and lobby consultancies.

This is according to a new report by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU), a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions.

It was published on the same day as the re-launch of the Commission-Parliament joint lobby transparency register.

Alter-EU says the current voluntary approach to lobby regulation “does not give an accurate picture” of lobbying in Brussels, and the Commission’s proposal for an inter-institutional agreement “will not be the solution” as it will not be binding on lobbyists.

For Alter-EU the changes being introduced are minimal and “will not solve its fundamental problems.”

Alter-EU says that too many entries within the register are based on “unreliable or even misleading” data.

For example, it is alleged that Goldman Sachs declares less than €50,000 lobby expenditure in 2013 whilst spending significantly more than that paying others to lobby on its behalf during the same period. This has now been the subject of a complaint by NGOs.

Around 150 lobby consultancies, law firms or consultants fail to disclose their clients’ names despite this being a clear breach of the rules,it is also claimed.

The campaigners says that Google and Novartis list more European Parliament accredited pass-holders than their total number of lobbyists “which cannot be correct according to the register rules.”

More than 200 lobby consultancies, law firms or consultants mask their clients’ identities by naming them only as acronyms, which Alter-EU says is another breach of the rules.

Helen Darbishire, of steering committee member Access Info Europe says, “Campaigners, journalists, and all EU citizens have a right to know who is lobbying our decision-makers, on which dossiers, and how much money they spend on lobbying.

“Full transparency is essential for getting a true picture of lobbying in Brussels and for ensuring balanced input of the views of all stakeholders.”

“The European Parliament has long demanded a tougher approach to EU lobby regulation.”

She added, “ALTER-EU calls on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal for a legally-binding lobby register by the end of 2015, with the aim of the new register being operational by mid-2017.” 

By Martin Banks