CEO statement on new transparency initiative of the European Commission

Corporate Europe Observatory welcomes the announcement by European Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans today after a college discussion on Commission president Juncker’s Transparency Initiative. It appears that earlier announced transparency obligations on commissioners to publish details of meetings with lobbyists, are now extended to also cover staff in cabinets and directors-general.

This is an important step forward in providing greater transparency around the role of lobbying in EU decision-making, but further steps are needed. CEO proposes the following:

  • This commitment should be further extended to cover all Commission officials who are the target of lobbying, otherwise this initiative will just expose the tip of the lobbying iceberg.
  • The list of meetings should mention (as a minimum): the company or group met, the specific names of lobbyists at the meeting, the date of the meeting and the topic discussed. Without this the transparency value will be limited.

  • There needs to be proper internal monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that these rules are fully complied with. In particular, it will be essential to monitor that no Commission official holds any meeting with any lobbyist who is not part of the EU lobby register. The requirement on staff to disclose all lobby meetings needs adding to relevant staff codes of conduct and officials should be subject to sanction if abuses occur.

  • Today’s announcement should be backed up by a clear Commission commitment to introduce a new, legally-binding (mandatory) high-quality EU lobby register which is backed by EU legislation. Introducing a new lobby register via an inter-institutional agreement, instead of legislation, would not make the register legally-binding on lobbyists.

Today’s announcement by vice-president Timmermans looks like a good first step and we hope the devil will not be in the details which still are to follow.