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Lobby Transparency

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Lobby Transparency

Over 30,000 lobbyists are said to roam Brussels, meeting unchecked with Members of European Parliament (MEPs) behind closed doors. With no mandatory lobby register in the EU, financial and corporate lobbyists have unregulated access to influence EU decision-makers. For years, Democracy International has advocated for a stricter lobby transparency rules so that there is no question about whose interests representatives truly represent. 

EU Transparency Register

European citizens deserve a right to know who is influencing EU policy and what interests are being represented at EU level. The best existing scheme for this is EU Transparency Register, which has been jointly established in 2011 by the European Commission and Parliament to answer citizens' concerns about the independence of EU institutions. The online public database invites lobbyists and special interest groups to identify themselves, their aims and their budgets. 

However, the weakness in the register lies in its non-binding nature across EU institutions. Thanks to measures taken by the Juncker Commission, lobby meetings with Commissioners are restricted to only those registered, but the Parliament has been using the register on a purely voluntary basis, and the Council does not use it at all. In order to increase transparency and openness in the EU decision-making process, the already existing register must be strengthened. Democracy International demands a mandatory lobby register across institutions so that only registered special interest groups may meet with EU politicians. 

Transparency register graph


Towards new EU transparency laws

In January 2019, the European Parliament voted for a historic amendment that would have obliged MEPs in special positions to publicly disclose meetings with lobbyists for the first time ever. The amendment was passed by a slight majority, making it the most important lobbying transparency vote to pass in the EU so far. Thanks to the support of our community, Democracy International along with campaign partner Lobby Control ran a successful campaign for more transparency ahead of the vote. 

These steps are a welcome milestone in the fight for more lobby transparency, and the measures taken by the Commission have already raised the bar when it comes to stricter lobbying rules. These measures include banning senior Commission representatives from holding meetings with unregistered lobbyists and introducing a waiting period of 12-18 months for politicians who retire from their public office and take up an industry job. 

Inter-institutional negotiations between the European Parliament, Commission and Council on transparency reform began early 2018, which could put pressure on the European Parliament to conform to stricter transparency rules and could raise the question of the European Council's transparency rules for the first time ever at the highest political level. 

A new and improved EU agreement for the Transparency Register is critical for European democracy, but only if steps are taken by all three EU institutions to move towards a mandatory register. 


Previous campaigns by Democracy International

Democracy International gathered suggestions from the public on how to curb lobbying and ensure transparency in Europe. Democracy International then handed over the 1,965 proposals to Sven Giegold, the European Parliament's rapporteur in the “Report on Transparency, Integrity and Accountability”. Read an analysis of the suggestions here

Read here the open letter sent by ALTER-EU, together with Democracy International and over 100 NGOs, to the Commission in the first year of its mandate in 2015 demanding a legally binding lobby register. 

Democracy International calls for a new EU transparency law that includes a mandatory lobby transparency register. Together with a broad alliance pioneered by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), Democracy International is invested in defining what the transparency rules ought to look like and how the influence of lobbying can become more transparent. 


External links:

European Commission Anti-Corruption Report 2014

Voluntary EU transparency register

Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU)


Press Release 31/01/19 Cologne, Germany Big win for civil society as European Parliament adopts historic lobby transparency rules
Sven Giegold, Member of European Parliament and Cora Pfafferott, representing Democracy International
On 25 August 2015, Democracy International handed over to Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament, people’s suggestions for how to end...
*/ */ This campaign has ended.  Thank you for taking part! Thanks to your support, over 61,663 emails were sent to Members of European Parliament...
113 non-governmental organisations and trade unions, including Democracy International, have urged European Commission Vice President Frans...
Thank you for taking part in the European Commission’s consultation on a mandatory lobby register. Together we can make a strong demand for a...
Democracy International and the Europe-wide network ALTER-EU are currently making use of an EU consultation to demand strict rules to prevent secret...
On 3rd September 2015, EU politicians, NGOS and practitioners came together in Brussels on the occasion of a conference to discuss how the EU can...
Transparency International (TI) published its first report on corruption and integrity risks in the institutions of the European Union on 24 April...
Join the get-together of citizens, politicians and experts to discuss best practices of transparent lobbying in the EU. The event will take place in...

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