Demand EU transparency and ethics rules now

Say No to the power of lobbies, ask for stronger ethics regulation

Join ALTER-EU to demand MEPs vote for tough new rules to ban conflicts of interest and promote full lobby transparency.

MEPs in the European Parliament, led by Sven Giegold, have drafted a report on “Transparency, integrity and accountability in the EU institutions”, and it includes many proposals to promote cleaner decision-making in Brussels. On 12 September, members of Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) will vote on this report – but not all MEPs agree that there needs to be a change to business as usual.

We have one week left to convince MEPs that excessive corporate lobbying and unethical politics – like the recent move by former Commission President Barroso to the investment bank Goldman Sachs – are a threat to our democracy.

Demand EU transparency and ethics rules now, Corporate Europe Observatory, September 6th 2016.

ALTER-EU (the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation), Democracy International and Transparency International are asking EU citizens to contact MEPs to demand they vote for:

  1. Banning MEPs from having side jobs with groups or companies involved in lobbying of the EU institutions.
  2. A stronger Parliament ethics committee with the powers to initiate its own investigations into alleged conflicts of interests and share with the public its recommendations for sanctions.
  3. A legislative footprint – so we can see who is lobbying on specific policies and laws.

Tell your MEP to take action to control the influence of big business over EU politics.

EU lobby register: 113 NGOs ask EU Commission to make it legally binding

ALTER-EU and others ask for full lobby transparency

This post content is published by ALTER-EU, a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions concerned with the influence of corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe.

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ALTER-EU urges European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to take strong and urgent action to create a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency register in a letter sent to him today, signed by over 100 non-governmental organisations.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation ALTER-EU has urged European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to take strong and urgent action to create a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency registerin a letter sent to him today, signed by over 100 non-governmental organisations and trade unions, and supported by the European Parliament Intergroup on Integrity.

The letter calls on the Commission to adopt measures to reduce opportunities for unethical lobbying, and to ensure a better balance between corporate and public interest groups in the access to, and influence they have on, EU decision-making processes.

Pam Bartlett Quintanilla of Access Info Europe,
a member of the Steering Committee of ALTER-EU said:

The EU lobby register still has major weaknesses. Vice President Timmermans promised a mandatory lobby register but his proposals are not mandatory for lobby groups. We need immediate steps that will ban lobby meetings with all Commission officials for un-registered lobby groups and we also need a legislative proposal that will ensure that the information provided in the register is relevant and complete and that there are strong sanctions in case of non-compliance”.

Natalia Alonso, Oxfam’s Deputy Director of Advocacy & Campaigns,
and a signatory to the letter, said:

A mandatory lobby register would help balance the influence that wealthy elites have over rule-making compared to public interest groups. The EU must put people first and powerful interests of a few, second“.

Jan Willem Goudriaan,
General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions
and also a signatory to the letter, added that:

A well-resourced system to register lobby firms is needed to ensure transparency, to counter the dominant influence of corporate Europe and to restore democracy in the EU”.

ALTER-EU, and the 113 signatory organisations to the letter, have specifically called on the Commission to:

  • Immediately extend its ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists so that it applies to all staff, to further boost registrations.
  • Make detailed proposals on the disclosure of additional and more precise information, including further details about the dossiers lobbied on.
  • Commit to an open and transparent process with other EU institutions to improve the lobby register, which would include substantial opportunities for input by citizens and civil society.
  • Commit to increasing the resources devoted to this area so that monitoring and enforcement of the rules can become far more effective.
  • Commit to including the objective of a lobby register that is legally-binding on lobbyists and thus truly mandatory (requiring legislation) in its proposed Inter-Institutional Agreement as a medium-term option to ensure that all EU lobbyists sign up.

Civil society groups have previously welcomed the steps the Juncker Commission has taken to increase lobby transparency at the European level, including the ban on senior Commission representatives holding meetings with unregistered lobbyists. However, since the ban on meetings with lobbyists only covers around 300 people out of a Commission staff of 33,000, the current measures still do not go far enough to ensure that the register is “mandatory” in practice.

Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver

EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency

EU-Lobby-Register-still-fail image
New ALTER-EU report shows why the current EU lobby register is still failing to deliver real transparency. Some of the main groups actively lobbying the EU institutions did not register and too many of the register’s entries are not reliable.

This new research published January 27, 2015 by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), shows how the voluntary approach to EU lobby transparency regulation fails to provide citizens with an accurate picture of the lobby scene in Brussels. Some of the main groups that are actively lobbying the EU institutions have still not registered in the EU’s Transparency Register. These include:

  • Financial lobbyists such as Standard & Poors, City of London Corporation and Credit Suisse;
  • Lobby consultancies, such as EUTOP Brussels;
  • Law firms such as Covington & Burling and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer;
  • Major corporations such as Electrabel, Anglo American and General Motors.

Meanwhile, too many of the register’s entries are unreliable: lobby firms and law firms fail to disclose clients – which is a clear breach of the rules for the register – or they mask their identities behind meaningless acronyms. In addition lobby spending and lobbyist numbers are often under-reported, and there are far too many implausible entries. For example:

  • Google and Novartis list more European Parliament entry passes than the total number of lobbyists they say they employ, which cannot be correct according to the register rules.
  • Goldman Sachs and Honeywell under-report their lobby expenditures as the amounts they declare are less than the amounts they have paid to lobby consultancies.
  • Meanwhile, some entries are simply absurd: BearingPoint, a professional consultancy, states that its lobby turnover is a staggering €552,795,000! [Addendum 28-01-2015: Since this report was published, BearingPoint has contacted us to clarify that the figure declared in its register entry was not, in fact, its lobbying expenses, but rather its annual turnover. Whilst this is an easy mistake to make, this example shows that there is a lack of proactive checking by the Transparency Register Secretariat that the entries are accurate and credible.]

The European Parliament, alongside transparency campaigners including ALTER-EU, have long demanded a tougher approach to EU lobby regulation. It is now time for the European Commission to take up this challenge. The revamped register currently being launched, will not significantly improve the accuracy of the lobby data (as outlined in this report) and will not enable any interested person to really know who is lobbying whom, and how much is being spent on lobbying in Brussels  – surely the key tests of any proper transparency register. Despite numerous commitments to improve the poor quality of information in the register, too little has happened and even the most obvious absurd entries have not been corrected.

The Juncker Commission is now proposing to introduce a so-called mandatory lobby register via an inter-institutional agreement. This is very misleading, as such an inter-institutional agreement would not be binding on lobbyists and thus not properly mandatory.

What is needed is a proposal for EU legislation to introduce a legally-binding EU lobby register, which would ensure that lobbyists are obliged to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities. This would allow the register secretariat to investigate incorrect and misleading entries, and ensure that effective sanctions can be applied in cases of breaches of the register rules. That is the only way to ensure that we know who is influencing the decisions coming out of Brussels, which affect EU citizens’ daily lives.

Sources and more information

ALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparencyALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparency
  • EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.
  • New and Improved? Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.

EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency

Why does the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver?

EU-Lobby-Register-still-fail image
New ALTER-EU report shows why the current EU lobby register is still failing to deliver real transparency. NGOs file complaint about misleading Goldman Sachs registration.

New research published January 27, 2015 shows that too many major lobby organisations, including 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, are not listed in the lobby transparency register despite being active in EU lobbying.

The research by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) – a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe – has beeen published on the same day as the re-launch of the Commission-Parliament joint lobby transparency register. 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’s research shows that too many entries within the register are based on unreliable or even misleading data. Some examples include:

  • 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.
  • 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 is another breach of the rules.
  • Consultancy BearingPoint declares that it is not a lobby firm and that it has zero lobbyists but states that its lobby turnover is a staggering €552,795,000!

There are many other anomalous entries detailed in the report.

Paul de Clerck of ALTER EU steering committee member Friends of the Earth Europe says:

The Commission’s proposed inter-institutional agreement to introduce a so-called mandatory lobby register is misleading, as it will not be binding on lobbyists and thus not be mandatory. What is needed is a legislative proposal, to ensure that lobbyists are legally obliged to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities and to ensure that strong sanctions can be applied in case of breaches of the register.”

Nina Katzemich of steering committee member LobbyControl added:

Even with the relaunched register, lobbyists can still choose if they want to be be transparent, and they can still appear in the register with totally misleading data. Despite the fact that registering is now a condition for meeting with Commissioners, without fundamental changes to the quality of the register, lobbyists can give a totally wrong impression of their lobbying activities and still get access to high level decision-makers. This is what happened, for example, in the case of Goldman Sachs. Their registration is subject to a complaint by LobbyControl, Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe, filed today.”

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. 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.

Sources and more information

ALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparencyALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparency
  • EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.
  • New and Improved? Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver, PDF January 27, 2015.

A Petition to for Full EU Lobby Transparency

Why is this important?

Full EU lobby transparency now
A petition on the Avaaz community

The Petition text:
Dear Mr Wieland Under the current voluntary EU lobby register, too many lobbyists conduct their lobbying secretively and unethically. This does citizens like me, and the public interest, a great disservice. I want to know who is trying to gain influence on EU politics, with what budget, on which issues and on whose behalf. This situation can only be delivered by the transition to a register in which all lobbyists conducting their work in Brussels have to register. It also needs a clear and enforceable ethics code and strong measures to support full transparency while the new register is introduced. As the European Parliament’s Vice-President for Transparency, it is vital that you stand up for lobbying transparency and implement the view of the majority of MEPs who supported the transition to a mandatory lobby register in their vote in May 2011.

Why this is important:
” …Lobbying works in Brussels, partly because it is able to operate in the shadows, and away from the glare of publicity. Thousands of lobbyists boycott the voluntary EU lobby register including virtually all law firms that lobby on behalf of industry clients. Many of the companies and organisations that do sign up, fail to provide comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information on their activities. And unfortunately, the EU institutions seem happy to let this situation continue.

You can help to change this situation. Right now, the lobby register is being reviewed in a series of meetings (mostly held in secret) between the Commission and MEPs. In November, they will finalise their views and it is vital that we do not lose this unique opportunity to demand change… ”

Sources: Full EU lobby transparency now
created by Vicky C, ALTER-EU, on the Avaaz community.

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