On 15 December, the Council, Commisssion and Parliament reached a final political agreement on the mandatory Transparency Register. During the press conference, the representatives of the three institutions, Katarina Barley, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Danuta Huebner, Michael Roth, German Presidency and Vĕra Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Values and Transparency briefly set out the key features of the new register.
The representatives highlighted that the new register is an important step towards bringing more trust in the EU and in the way the decisions are made. It was equally important to have, for the first time, all three institutions included in the proposed new regime. The overarching principle of the register is that of conditionality where each institution will make registration a pre-condition for certain activities.
The new register has several new features as compared with the one currently in force. First of all, it is activity-based so that it does not matter who delivers the activity as long as it falls within the scope of the definition of lobbying. Secondly, the three institutions share the secretariat which, in turn, has more resources at its disposal (what has been recurring recommendations from the Brussels lobbying actors). Thirdly, the provisions of the register require more detailed information from the registrants.
The register adopted a wider definition of lobbying which covers ‘activities aimed at influencing the decision-making processes or the formulation or implementation of policy or legislation at EU-level.’ The negotiators agreed on a non-exhaustive list of examples of activities that would require registration.
Importantly, the register now covers activities by third countries when they are carried out by entities without diplomatic status or through intermediaries.
Legal advice remains exempt from the scope of the register, as activities by social partners, political parties, intergovernmental organisations or public authorities of the member states.
The register will be overseen by the Management Board composed of the Secretaries General of the three institutions. The Secretariat of the register will publish an annual report addressed to the Presidents of the three institutions.
It is possible for other EU institutions and agencies to join the register. In addition, the EU member states’ permanent representations can join the register on a voluntary basis. The question of the inclusion of permanent representations has been a long subject of debate in the EU circles as on one hand they are involved in the EU policy making and on the other are member states’ representations and as such are covered by relevant national rules on meetings with lobbyists.
The agreement will now have to be approved by each signatory institution according to their own procedures. In case of the Parliament, the agreement will have to be approved by the Committee for Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) and then by the Plenary. In the Council, the agreement will be tabled for adoption by the Committee of Permanent Representatives and afterwards adopted at Council level. In the Commission, it will be adopted by the College.