As the European Commission prepares to review its voluntary lobby register one year after its official launch in 2008, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has published a detailed report highlighting the failures of the register and putting forward concrete proposals for improvement.
The study reveals that only around 23% of Brussels lobby organisations have registered so far, and that much of the information disclosed is insufficient or questionable . Think-tanks and law firms are boycotting the register, while major corporate lobby groups are still poorly represented. This shows the inadequacy of the Commission's voluntary approach.
“One year on, the voluntary EU lobby register is still being snubbed by a large majority of lobbyists in Brussels. The Commission's soft approach is not working, most lobbyists are not going to disclose relevant information voluntarily,” said Jorgo Riss, director of the Greenpeace European Unit.
According to the ALTER-EU report, unclear financial disclosure requirements allow lobby groups to disguise the size of their lobbying effort, making it impossible to determine who the biggest spenders really are and what policies they are trying to influence . The lack of clear guidelines also means that the register is increasingly cluttered by associations that play no role in lobbying the EU.
“In its current form, the lobby register is unfit to answer even the most basic questions on transparency. The register tells us nothing about how many lobbyists operate in Brussels, who they are, what they spend and what they lobby on,” said Olivier Hoedeman, research coordinator for Corporate Europe Observatory.
ALTER-EU calls on the Commissions to:
* develop a mandatory system to replace the current voluntary one in 2010;
* close loopholes on financial disclosure and provide clear and broad definitions of what constitutes lobbying;
* punish non-compliance and disclosure of misleading information;
* end exemptions for sectors such as competition policy.
To download the report, go to:
Notes to the editor:
 The European Parliament estimated that 2,600 lobby organisations had offices in Brussels in 2000. The Commission has on various occasions estimated the total number of individual lobbyists at over 15,000. The Commission register currently does not list the names or the number of lobbyists working for lobby organisations.
 The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the industry lobby group in Brussels, declares that only 0.1% of its turnover is spent on lobbying activities (under €50,000 out of €37.9 million). Entries for consultancies Burson-Marsteller and Hill&Knowlton simply list clients as each falling under 10% of their turnover, in other words within a wide and vague range of €0 to €690,000 and €810,000 respectively.
 Examples range from the ‘German Erotic Trade Association’, that estimates its lobbying costs at €10, to the ‘Surfrider Foundation of Europe’, with a lobby budget of zero.
Jorgo Riss – Director, Greenpeace European Unit: +32 (0)2 274 1907, email@example.com
Olivier Hoedemen – Research coordinator, Corporate Europe Observatory: +32 (0)474 48 65 45 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org
Press: Mark Breddy – +32 (0)2 274 19 03, +32 (0)496 15 62 29 (mobile), email@example.com