EU lobbyists still out of control

21 September 2006

EU lobbyists still out of control

Siim Kallas, European Commissioner for administration and the combating of fraud, is not in favour of a system of compulsory registration for lobbyists, a fact which emerged during this week’s debate on the issue in the European Parliament. Describing himself as “disappointed”, SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer said nothing else would “dispel the mistrust on the part of the European public in the face of the Brussels lobbying circus.”

According to Commissioner Kallas, binding measures are unnecessary “because we have as yet had no Abramoff scandal.” Abramoff was an American lobbyist found guilty earlier this year of the bribing of Members of Congress. “Does Mr Kallas then want to wait until we have had such a scandal?” asked Erik Meijer. “Can’t he learn from experiences in the US?”

Estimates put the number of lobbyists in Brussels at around 20,000. Corporate industry is particularly well-represented and has an enormous influence on Commission policy. It’s an open secret that the corporate business lobby, united in the European Round Table of Industrialists, has left its mark on this neoliberal Europe.

The organisation representing Brussels lobbyists will now be permitted to draw up its own code of conduct to which lobbying must conform. Only if this turns out to be unsuccessful will the Commission come forward with compulsory measures. “No wonder that the lobbyists are delighted with this proposal, because it commits them to nothing whatsoever,” said Erik Meijer.

In Meijer’s opinion, an independent body should be established to lay down rules and make sure they are complied with. In addition to obligatory registration, he would also like to see openness in financial matters and compulsory declaration of interests.

The number of invitations to lunches, receptions and “dinner debates” which even a Euro-MP from the SP receives every day is staggering. Meijer adds that “You have to say that we feel more affinity with the social and environmental organizations which are also represented in Brussels.”

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