EU institutions reach agreement on new interinstitutional transparency register

Senior Polish MEP Danuta Hübner says move marks important step towards a more open and accountable European Union.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

11 Dec 2020

Under the new register, Member States' officials should systematically meet with registered interest representatives only, in line with current practices in the European Parliament and the Commission.

This builds on what the two institutions have already been doing since 2011 and improved in 2014, and what made registration obligatory in practice for lobbyists.

The agreement covers all lobbying activities, whether they involve direct or indirect communications with Member States, the Parliament or Commission.

Hübner, a co-negotiator on the agreement for the European Parliament, She said, “We applaud the fact that council accepts a coordinated approach together with the Parliament and the Commission.”

The Polish EPP group member said, “The European Parliament is one of the most transparent institutions in the world. Member states should adopt a similar approach by joining our open working method.”

“This contributes to a healthy debate culture in Europe in which citizens can understand who is representing their interests. We have safeguarded the freedom of mandate for MEPs, while putting in place terms for an instrument that will be truly effective.”

“This contributes to a healthy debate culture in Europe in which citizens can understand who is representing their interests. We have safeguarded the freedom of mandate for MEPs, while putting in place terms for an instrument that will be truly effective” Danuta Hübner MEP

The new agreement, she believes, shifts the focus from the legal status representatives have, to an “activity-based approach.”

It defines covered and non-covered interests and creates an equal footing among the three institutions, she argues.

Hübner added, “We want to create the necessary conditions for ethical interest representations at EU level and at the same time ensure meaningful participation of Member States.

“As such, we have pushed for an understanding of conditionality that is broader than the ‘no registration, no meeting’ rule. Now it will be rather 'no representation without registration'. Conditionality means that registration in the transparency register is an essential precondition for interest representatives to perform certain lobbying activities.”

The agreement still needs the formal validation of Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which Hübner chairs.

Some concern, though, has been voiced by Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group based in Brussels.

In a statement, CEO said, “We welcome that lobby intermediaries for repressive regimes will now have to declare their clients and we have fought off attempts to exclude indirect lobbying.”

"We hope that Council, Commission and Parliament will now do some internal soul-searching and expand the number of activities that will be conditional upon registration. This could mean, for instance, expanding the number of EU officials covered by the "no registration, no meeting" principle” Corporate Europe Observatory's Margarida Silva

It adds, “We are disappointed at the lack of progress to make this register properly binding. We know that Permanent Representation staffs, along with officials from their ministries at home, play a role in negotiating council positions on new EU laws and these officials can be heavily lobbied especially by corporate lobbies with the money and capacity to run influencing campaigns across multiple Member States.

“The proposed lobby register reform fails to open up this element of EU lobbying culture.”

Margarida Silva, a researcher at CEO, said, “We are still waiting to see the final text to make a complete assessment, however, what we know so far is that this reform mostly introduces some small tweaks.

“At the core of the proposal, to make the register de facto mandatory, was the expansion of a system of conditionalities - meaning that only registered organisations would be able to have meetings with policymakers and officials. Yet, the three institutions have failed to agree on a common position here.

“We hope that Council, Commission and Parliament will now do some internal soul-searching and expand the number of activities that will be conditional upon registration. This could mean, for instance, expanding the number of EU officials covered by the "no registration, no meeting" principle,"

Categories

EU Institutions
Share this page