The Commission has delivered a new proposal, which would make it mandatory for lobbyists to register their details if they wish to interact with the EU institutions, in a bid to ensure that the EU decision-making process is as open as possible.

On 28 September, the European Commission released their proposal for a new interinstitutional agreement (IIA) between the European Commission, Parliament and Council creating a mandatory transparency register for lobbyists.

Under the proposal, it will be mandatory for an organisation to be included on the Transparency Register where they are interacting with the European Commission, Parliament or Council with the objective of influencing the institutions in the legislative and/or decision-making process and wish to hold meetings with staff of the institutions, receive alerts from them and appoint expert group members, amongst other activities.

It is proposed that such organisations will be required to provide an array of information on the register, which is open to the public, including numbers of staff working on lobbying activities and their lobbying costs or revenue. 

The proposal forms part of the Juncker Commission’s commitment to transparency and reforming the  EU policy making process. When releasing the proposal, the Commission’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, alluded to the need to “win back the trust of our citizens”, stating that “citizens have the right to know who tries to influence EU law-making”, amid growing Euro-scepticism.

The proposed agreement would extend the current IIA, which only covers interactions with the Commission and Parliament, to interactions with the Council as well. Additionally, the register, which is currently voluntary, would be made mandatory. The current register is however de facto mandatory as registration is currently a prerequisite to conduct the aforementioned activites in relation to the Commission and Parliament.

The proposal also potentially limits the scope of activities as, unlike the current IIA, the proposed agreement would seemingly not cover activities conducted with the aim of ‘indirectly’ influencing EU institutions, a phrase which captures many activities.

As with the current IIA, the provision of legal services is excluded from the proposed agreement where is consists of professional advice provided in the context of a contractual client relationship regarding representation in the context of a conciliation or mediation procedure, ensuring that client’s activities comply with the law and representing clients and safeguarding their fundamental or procedural rights. The making of submissions made in a legal or administrative procedure established by EU/international law and submissions based on a contractual relationship with an EU institution or based on a grant agreement financed by EU funds would also not be covered by the agreement. The exact scope of these exclusions is however unclear at present and will therefore likely be subject to debate. 

Likewise, as the proposal makes its way through the institutions, the exact procedure for which is currently unclear, it is likely that further areas of debate will include the resources, location and budget of the Secretariat, which will be responsible for monitoring the register amongst other issues.