Van Bommel urges strict EU rules for lobbyists

5 May 2006

Van Bommel urges strict EU rules for lobbyists

The European Commission’s proposal to make the activities of lobbyists more transparent falls far short of what's needed and is nothing more than a wish-list, containing no real commitments. In reaction to the proposal, SP Member of Parliament and European spokesman Harry van Bommel is calling for much stricter controls on the activities of lobbyists in Brussels.

It is estimated that 20,000 lobbyists are working in Brussels. In order better to inform the public about the activities of these people, we need more transparency. The proposal that the Commission came out with this week, however, amounts to no more than self-regulation. Lobbyists are kindly requested to register with the European Commission and may themselves establish rules of conduct to which, in their opinion, they should adhere in their work. Harry van BommelCommenting on this, Harry van Bommel said: “In an earlier voluntary registration system set up by the Commission only around 10 per cent of lobbyists bothered to sign up. A voluntary approach, as this shows, won't work. It looks a bit too much like the butcher who assures you his meat's good because he approved it himself. Lobbyists who want to carry on working in the shadows will do so.”

In a written parliamentary question presented today, Van Bommel is calling on Secretary of State for European Affairs Atzo Nicolaï to urge the Commission to bring in stricter rules for lobbyists, comparable to those in federal US laws governing Congress and other national institutions. Under such rules lobbyists are obliged to register and to present an annual report listing their clients, the amount of money they have spent and the issues on which they have lobbied. These reports must be accessible to the public and available permanently on-line. In addition, compliance should be closely monitored and any transgression of the rules dealt with severely. As Van Bommel says “In Europe serious political business is conducted and this attracts serious lobbyists. This demands therefore serious regulation, and not a voluntary wish-list.”

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