Lobbying is a part of any healthy democracy, but Transparency International EU (TI EU) works hard to ensure that such activities are conducted in a transparent and ethical manner at EU level. Brussels is the second capital of the world in terms of lobbying after Washington DC. At least 48,000 individuals work in this European capital in organisations seeking to influence the EU institutions and decisions, with 7,500 of these possessing an accredited lobby badge to the European Parliament. The nearly 12,000 organisations on the current voluntary EU lobby register declare a combined annual lobby budget of 1.8 billion euros.
At EU level, lobbying activities lack comprehensive regulation. The Council, for example, has no system in place to protect itself from unethical lobbying. The Parliament and Commission have a joint voluntary register for lobbyists, which lacks the proper resources to carry out adequate oversight of the registrants. In the last mandate, the European Commission made a proposal to regulate this sector through a mandatory register common to all three EU institutions, a long-term policy ask of TI EU. Unfortunately, despite years of negotiations, the ‘mandatory EU Transparency Register’ is not yet a reality. Following the 2019 European elections, many questioned whether the new Parliament and Commission would continue discussions. At a TI EU event on this issue, the three EU institutions made a public commitment to resume the negotiations in 2020. TI EU continues to follow these developments closely and is actively promoting the adoption of such a mandatory register.
TI EU believes that the democratic decision-making process and institutions need to be protected by a comprehensive integrity system, which ultimately ensures ethical and open input from all interested stakeholders. To this end, the EU institutions must also guarantee equal access by lobbying organisations, allowing them to provide their expertise and input. This would ultimately lead to better decisions and better laws for all European citizens. Additionally, to ensure transparency and accountability, all input by stakeholders into the legislative process should be published in a legislative footprint.