Council sends observer to meeting on joint transparency register.
The Council of Ministers has for the first time sent an observer to meetings of the secretariat that manages the joint lobbyists' register of the European Parliament and the European Commission. Previously, the Council had kept its distance from the voluntary register, re-launched a year ago to combine the previously separate registers of the Parliament and Commission.
An EU official said that the move did not amount to a change in the Council's attitude toward the register. “Our starting point is that the Council is not concerned by the transparency register because we are not the target of activities by lobbyists,” he said. A year ago, the Commission's register held around 5,000 entities, whether companies, organisations or individuals. All have been transferred to the joint register, which now has 5,155 entities.
The Commission estimates that those entries represent between 15,000 and 20,000 individuals who are interacting with the EU institutions. While registration is voluntary, lobbyists wanting access badges to the Parliament's premises are supposed to sign up for the register, which records the number of staff undertaking lobbying, the main legislative dossiers they cover, and the amount of EU funding they may have received. They are also supposed to comply with a code of conduct.
A spokesman for Maroš Šefcovic, the European commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, said the new register was working well. “Unlike the old register, it demands a lot more information on funding and captures a lot more people. It is not just lobbying firms that are lobbying – NGOs are lobbyists, religious groups are lobbyists, businesses are lobbyists.”
He said that the register's six categories of interest representation – professional consultancies, companies' in-house lobbyists, non-governmental organisations, think-tanks and research groups, religious communities, and local or regional authorities – had prompted an increasing number to register. Transparency advocates had criticised the register for its voluntary character, and called on the Commission and the Parliament to publish the names of lobbying firms that have violated the code of conduct.
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