It’s out, it’s official: The EU will revamp its lobby registers in the next 12-18 months, merging the Commission’s and Parliament’s registers into one common register.
The new register will also get a new name: the “Transparency Register“, a re-branding for those groups (e.g. religious groups, think tanks etc.) that don’t want to be called “lobbyists” or “interest representatives”. It will not be mandatory to be registered to interact with the institutions.
These changes, already announced informally last week, were today confirmed by Commissioner Sefcovic and by EU Parliament Vice-President Wallis at a public meeting at the European Parliament (agenda).
They are a step forward, which is positive, but it remains nevertheless disappointing that the register will not be mandatory for groups who want to influence the EU institutions nor will there be mandatory provisions for the kind of information that must be provided.
Jana Mittermaier from the TI EU office, who was chairing one of three panels of the event, made clear that this is not enough and that more transparency in EU lobbying is needed to prevent conflicts of interests and to reduce the risk of corruption. ALTER-EU and several MEPs also showed their discontent.
The good thing is that those interest (or whatever-they-call-themselves) groups that are not registered will not be able to get an access badge to the European Parliament. It is also good that the data from the register will be made available in a machine-readable format as I was told by Christian Lindner, advisor to Commissioner Sefcovic, which will ease it for us to link the data with other data sets such as EU funds data to check whether groups that influence the institutions also receive money from them.
Sefcovic also announced that they are going to start making random checks on entries already on the present register and that they want to provide clearer guidelines on what kind of information should be presented, and in what way. This is another step forward, and reacts to civil society requests voiced during the Right to Know Day event in the European Parliament where Jana from our office was speaking for Transparency International.
Altogether, we have seen some positive developments today, but there is still a long way to go. And the joke of the day came from the representative of the Belgian EU Council Presidency who stated, frankly and honestly, that the reason why the EU Council will not yet participate in the joint register is because:
“The Council as an institution is not targeted by lobbyists.”
Welcome to Brussels!