New group calls for lobbying transparency in EU

A new civil society coalition has formed to call for mandatory disclosure and ethic rules for EU lobbyists.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) calls for an end to what it calls the "current secrecy and privileged access to EU decision makers enjoyed by business interests" and is supported by over 140 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms.

"The existing voluntary codes of conduct developed by the lobbying firms in Brussels fail to ensure transparency about who lobbies the EU and on whose behalf," said Erik Wesselius of the Amsterdam-based lobbying watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory. "The increase of deceptive lobbying practices, such as pseudo-NGOs established to advocate industry positions, is another reason why transparency and ethics around lobbying cannot be left to voluntary initiatives."

ALTER-EU is planning to make concrete recommendations on how best to shape rules to improve transparency and ethics around lobbying. Its members have suggested such measures as electronic registration and reporting for lobbyists.

The coalition has the support of EU Commissioner for Administrative affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud Siim Kallas, who in March initiated the European Transparency initiative.

"The public pays a heavy price for the big-money lobbying that goes on in Brussels, since legislation to improve health and the environment loses out every time," said Jorgo Riss of Greenpeace European Unit. "For example, eight years after the EU started addressing the environmental problems caused by 4.1 million tonnes of PVC plastic waste annually, the PVC industry has succeeded in preventing any real progress and recruited two senior Commission officials to a public relations exercise that recycles a mere 0.44% of this waste."

It is estimated that over 15,000 lobbyists are currently working to influence the EU institutions.

By David Hopkins



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