European coalition challenges EU lobby rules

The European Commission has published a Green Paper on a European Transparency Initiative. This paper argues for a voluntary registration system of lobbyists. It fails to address issues of disclosure so professional lobbyists make known for whom they work. The Green paper has been criticised by Alter-EU, a coalition of different organisations of which EPSU is also a member.

Read the press release below

Or on the website of Alter-EU

Press release ALTER EU

EU fails to develop credible transparency rules

BRUSSELS, 3 May 2006 - The Commission's proposals for the new European

Transparency Initiative (ETI) fail to deliver transparency around the role

of lobbying in EU decision-making and will not improve public trust in the

EU institutions, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics

Regulation (ALTER-EU) charged today. ALTER-EU will continue to push for a

meaningful transparency system during the consultation period which begins

with this Green Paper, and urges the Commission to make more effective

proposals soon.

The critique came in response to the publication by the EU Commission of

the Green Paper on ETI, proposing a voluntary registration system for

lobbyists. Entirely missing from the Green Paper are proposals for ending

privileged access by commercial lobbyists and on employment of Commission

public officials in the private sector (‘revolving doors').

ALTER-EU believes that the Commission approach to transparency is totally

insufficient and urges the Commission to introduce incentives to ensure

registration of all lobbyists. In particular, the alliance makes the

following criticisms:

- the Commission fails to propose an effective system of disclosure.

Vested interest lobbyists are likely to continue to operate without having

to provide information on the financing of their activities;

- it does not address the issue of “revolving doors”, where former EU

Commission staff take up lobbying posts, nor does it provide for

transparency regarding staff working for the Commission under temporary


- the Commission appears satisfied with current consultation procedures,

despite recent cases where the Commission has granted privileged access to

lobbyists from the corporate sector, for example the European Services

Forum, High Level Working Groups and the Communication on CSR;

- the Commission failed to develop proposals for a code of conduct for

ethical behavior for all lobbyists: the Commission cannot leave this to

the lobbyists themselves but must show leadership and secure a credible

“implementation and sanction mechanism”.

Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory said: “The ETI Green Paper

lays out an inadequate voluntary approach. An e-mail list announcing

upcoming Commission consultations is no credible incentive to ensure

comprehensive registration and reporting by EU lobbyists. Those lobbyists

who want to stay in the shadow and not reveal their lobbying to the

general public will continue to do so under this proposal.”

Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The current codes of

conduct of public affairs companies are not good because they lack

independent monitoring and effective sanctions and leave no role for

public scrutiny of lobbying The Commission must apply clear rules with

sanctions in case of non-compliance and false registration or else the

whole exercise is not credible”.

Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace European Unit, noted: “Lobbyism is a

thriving and unregulated business. Without rules, big money lobbying

undermines democracy. Large corporations invest a lot of money to get

access to EU decision-makers, and the public interest loses out.”

Ulrich Mueller of LobbyControl said: “A credible system of lobbying

transparency is feasible and possible, especially if you look at positive

examples in Lithuania, Hungary, Poland the US and Canada. For ALTER-EU,

the publication of the ETI Green Paper means the start of a pan-European

campaign to prevent the EU Commission from side-stepping the issues and to

ensure credible and effective EU lobbying transparency and ethics rules.“

For more information, please contact:

Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe, +32 473510147,
[email protected]

Erik Wesselius, Corporate Europe Observatory, +31 30 2364422, [email protected]

Jorgo Riss, Greenpeace European Unit, + 32 2 2741907,
[email protected]

Ulrich Mueller, LobbyControl, [email protected]


1) ALTER-EU is a coalition of over 140 civil society groups, trade unions,

academics and public affairs firms calling for: A EU lobbying disclosure

legislation; improved code of conduct for European Commission Officials;

the European EU Commission to terminate cases of privileged access and

undue influence granted to corporate lobbyists.

The call for “Ending corporate privileges and secrecy around lobbying in

the European Union”, the founding statement of the Alliance for

Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) and a list of signatories

are available in

2) Paul de Clerck, Erik Wesselius, Jorgo Riss and Ulrich Mueller are

members of the ALTER-EU steering committee.

3) EU Commissioner Kallas first announced the European Transparency

Initiative (ETI) in a flagship speech on 5 March 2005. ETI is among other

things intended to correct the current lack of transparency around the

over 15,000 lobbyists working to influence the EU institutions.