SP demands measures to improve working of EU transparency register

25 June 2012

SP demands measures to improve working of EU transparency register

An enquiry by the lobbying watchdog ALTER-EU has shown that the transparency register established by the European Commission in 2008 is not functioning effectively. The European Parliament last year began to use the register, in which practically all Brussels lobbyists should in principle be listed. The information contained in the register is, however, in part incorrect and many firms who are demonstrably active in the Brussels are omitted. SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong says that ‘There is clearly some confusion: some firms claim that they spend only a few euros a year on lobbying, which is of course totally unrealistic. Information about what European legislation a lobbying effort is aimed at is missing, incomplete or out of date. There are also a large number of companies, including Dutch firms Philips Medical Systems and Ahold, who have simply still not registered, despite the fact that they are certainly active in Brussels. It’s clear that more monitoring and additional measures are badly needed.’

The large number of obvious errors in the register make it clear that the European Commission has not kept its promise to check up on the data in the register on a regular basis. ‘The Commission is still not taking transparency seriously,’ says De Jong. ‘There are too few people involved and the checks aren’t accurate. I have now put a number of questions to the Commission on this.’ In addition it appears that confusion continues over who precisely must register and what information they must supply. ‘It’s very difficult to define just what constitutes a lobbyist,’ De Jong concedes. ‘Someone who visits Brussels just once to put his or her case is in formal terms a lobbyist, but the register should above all tell us about people who exercise real influence on Brussels’ legislative activities. That’s why I’m arguing in favour of greater clarity in the form of a more concrete set of guidelines for lobbyists, so that we will truly know who, on what, and with what financial support each lobbyist in Brussels is working.’

According to De Jong Euro-MPs could also do a great deal themselves to improve the functioning of the register. This week he joined international anti-corruption NGO Transparency International in preparing a declaration which all Euro-MPs are being asked to sign, promising thereby not to meet with any lobbyists who are not registered. They will also keep a record for each piece of legislation which passes through the European Parliament of which lobbyists have influenced the text of proposals. ‘I expect that a great many MEPs will sign such a voluntary declaration,’ De Jong says. ‘For the European Parliament’s legitimacy it’s of enormous importance that it’s clear what has been subject to influence from whom. Those who represent the people have a duty to their voters to ensure such transparency.’

The report of the enquiry, which was published today, can be read here.

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