EU breaks 'legally binding' lobbying register promise

Plans reveal only a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on unregistered infuencers

The law is an (invisible) ass

According to Michiel van Hulten, a "democracy and transparency campaigner" and senior visiting fellow at the LSE’s European Institute, law firms are the worst offenders in avoiding the voluntary register, even when they specifically offer lobbying services on their websites.

“By my count, of 75 Brussels-based law firms with an international or EU capability, just six have a transparency register entry. Of these, Linklater and Taylor Wessing both declare zero euros of lobbying expenditure,” he said.

Having said all that, the Juncker commission has announced that none of his commissioners will meet with unregistered lobbyists. As well as the commitment to a mandatory lobby register, all new EC commissioners have been instructed from on high to ensure that details of all of their lobby meetings are published online.

This may encourage some more companies to sign up, but is far from the mandatory requirements promised.

Paul de Clerck, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Juncker and Timmermans promised a mandatory lobby register. What they are proposing now will still be a voluntary register. This will not ensure that citizens will find correct and relevant information about who is lobbying, on what dossiers, and how much money is being spent.”

“The example of Goldman Sachs illustrates how important it is to have a register which is legally-binding on lobbyists," added Olivier Hoedeman of Corporate Europe Observatory.

“It seems clear that the bank has not fully reported its EU lobby spend, yet the current voluntary register rules do not allow real sanctions. This situation will not change under the new Juncker-Timmermans proposal,” he added. ®

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