SP: European transparency register good first step, but far from enough

24 November 2010

SP: European transparency register good first step, but far from enough

Dennis de Jong SP-Euro-MP Dennis de Jong describes the plan for a 'transparency register' as a step forward in making public the influence that 15,000 lobbyists exert on European decision-making. ‘But its effectiveness depends entirely on monitoring and that’s where the proposal falls down.’ De Jong was reacting to the proposal presented this week to the European Parliament and the Commission that lobbyists be given a permanent access pass only after they have registered. He also emphasised that the register would in the end do no more than bring the influence of lobbyists on Brussels decision-making more into the open, doing nothing to change the actual influence of the corporate lobby especially. “So there’s still a world to win,” he concluded.

As things stand the Parliament and Commission operate only a voluntary register. “Scarcely 30% of Brussels lobbyists are registered in this,” says De Jong. “A voluntary system clearly isn’t working and stricter rules are needed.” The SP Euro-MP, who was actively involved in the negotiations over the register, sees it as progress that something at least is being done, and is positive about the code of conduct attached to the register, the sanctions mechanism for transgressors and the fact that information must be supplied annually by lobbyists if they wish to maintain their registration.

However, a crucial gap in the current agreement is, in De Jong’s view, that it does not provide for monitoring or checking of the information supplied. “This is despite the fact that an investigation has shown that the lobbyists currently registered often give incomplete or incorrect information,” he notes. Another deficiency of the plan is that organisations are not asked where their finance comes from. “Research has shown that two-thirds of the patients’ groups active in Brussels are funded by the pharmaceutical industry. This would be made transparent if they were asked about it and made to supply clear information regarding the way in which lobbyists wander round Brussels in effect wearing two hats.”

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