In a nutshell, it simply means seeking to influence policymaking, policy implementation and/or the EU institutions’ decision-making process.
- The European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Ministers are the three main EU bodies involved in adopting policy and legislation.
- As the EU has grown in size and areas of competence, its decisions affect more and more areas of business, civil society and individual citizens.
- As such, more and more people seek to influence the shape of legislation so that it reflects their concerns or needs.
What are the issues surrounding lobbying?
- Why lobby? Lobbying is a legitimate part of the decision-making process and an integral part of the democratic process. When done well, it should inform decision-makers’ thinking, thus allowing them to take well-informed decisions. Lobbyists can provide information and expertise of a particular field, which decision-makers or politicians will not necessarily possess. As such it should aid better law-making.
- Why transparency? Policy makers and those who try to influence them must act ethically and they must be accountable for their behaviour. Ensuring the transparency of these processes helps to achieve this and adds to the legitimacy of the decisions taken.
- It takes two to lobby. Those who lobby and those who are lobbied must observe legal and ethical obligations. SEAP was founded to promote high standards of ethical behaviour amongst European affairs professionals.
- Money? The link between money and influence is always hotly debated, but it is not the case that those dedicating the most money to their lobbying will necessarily be the most influential. Some basic disclosure of financial information is required by the EU’s Transparency Register.
What is the Transparency Register?
It is essential that those involved in the process of adopting legislation or developing policy are accountable and responsible. Transparency is one way to ensure the accountability of both policy-makers and those who influence them.
- The European Commission created a public, online register of interest representatives in 2008.
- Those who seek to influence the EU institutions were encouraged to register, giving information about their organisation, its interests, any clients it might have and some financial information about its interest representation activities.
- That Commission-only register was extended to the European Parliament after lengthy joint discussions and the common Transparency Register was created in 2011. In 2014 a Revised Interinstitutional Agreement on the Transparency Register was published and in 2015 a new version of the Transparency Register was launched.
- The new Register is open to a broader range of actors including:
- public affairs consultancies
- law firms
- non-governmental organisations
- professional associations
- think tanks
- businesses acting on their own behalf
- some public bodies
- Those who register must sign the Register’s Code of Conduct. They can also state whether you they are bound by another relevant professional Code. SEAP strongly encourages its members to note in their Register entry that they follow the SEAP Code of Conduct, and provide a link to it.
- The register is currently voluntary but it’s transitioning to becoming de facto compulsory. SEAP has developed its own guidelines about registration.
What developments should we expect in the future?
In 2016 the Commission published a proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on a mandatory Transparency Register covering the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. Negotiations are expected to start in the second half of 2017.