The European Parliament and European Commission have updated and improved their Transparency Register as of 27 January 2015. The register is intended to identify the representatives of special interest groups who interact with and attempt to influence the EU institutions. The latest updates include an extended Code of Conduct and mandatory registration for anyone wanting to meet with Commissioners, Cabinet Members or Director-Generals, or speak at hearings organised by the European Parliament.
The Transparency Register is, as yet, not mandatory for all lobbyists. However, some steps are being taken in this direction. Back in November, President Juncker tasked Vice President Frans Timmermans with “preparing a proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement creating a mandatory lobby register covering the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council”. This proposal is expected to be made in 2015 and would be a positive step in the fight to ensure the transparency of EU institutions and win back the trust of EU citizens in their representatives.
Meanwhile, other officials have leapt into the fray, with the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, calling for changes to the composition and registration of Commission expert groups. These groups are made up of external experts who advise on the preparation and implementation of new legislative proposals and policy initiatives.
The Ombudsman noted that there were concerns about the “perceived dominance of corporate interests” in these groups. Currently the members of these groups must sign up to the “Register of Commission Expert Groups”. The Ombudsman has recommended that instead the Commission:
– Use the Transparency Register’s categorisation to categorise members in Commission expert groups
– Require registration in the Transparency Register for appointment to expert groups
– Systematically check whether registrants sign up to the right section of the Transparency Register
– Link each member of an expert group to his/her/its profile in the Transparency Register
The Ombudsman’s proposals would thus make the Transparency Register mandatory for another group with special access to the EU decision-making process. We await the Commission’s response on this as well as on its promise to propose a mandatory Transparency Register for all lobbyists.