Transparency International (TI) has published a report entitled “Lobbying in Europe: Hidden influence, privileged access” and urgently called for lobbying reform in Europe. The report is the first-ever comprehensive assessment of lobbying across Europe. It ranked 19 countries and three EU institutions in terms of their overall performance in safeguarding against undue influence and in promoting open and ethical lobbying.
TI’s report found that only seven out of 19 countries assessed, i.e. Austria, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and the UK, have existing regulation targeting lobbying. Yet even in these member states, regulation is poorly designed or not properly implemented, implying that it fails to achieve the ideal standards of transparency, integrity and equality of access.
The three EU institutions achieved an average score of 36% when assessed against international standards and best practice. Of these institutions, the Council performs the worst, partly due to the fact that it is not covered by the voluntary EU Transparency Register.
Slovenia is ranked at the top with 55%, owing to the dedicated lobbying regulation in place, which nevertheless suffers from gaps and loopholes. Cyprus and Hungary emerged as the worst performers with only 14%.
Elena Panfilova, Vice-Chair of TI said: “In the past five years, Europe’s leaders have made difficult economic decisions that have had big consequences for citizens. Those citizens need to know that decision-makers were acting in the public interest, not the interest of a few select players.”
Wes Himes, VP Communications of SEAP, said: “Like all aspects of EU policy, the debate on how to ensure ethical interest representation benefits from an open dialogue among all those concerned. Over the years, that dialogue has improved the system – and it will continue to do so. As the voice of EU affairs professionals of all colours, SEAP is committed to playing its part in finding effective and workable solutions in this evolving debate.”
Iain Anderson, Chairman of the APPC, commented: "Transparency International's report makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about how best to ensure transparent and ethical lobbying both here in the UK and across Europe. Measuring industry transparency, integrity and equality of lobbying access, the UK performs relatively well compared to other European nations - in part a reflection of the positive role of APPC in helping to drive up industry standards.
"We particularly welcome the recommendation to 'establish and strengthen existing registers of lobbyists [and] … ensure that the registers apply to both direct and indirect lobbying efforts targeting the full range of institutions and individuals performing public decision-making functions.' APPC has long argued that a register covering only third-party lobbyists is insufficient and we very much hope a future government reviews the UK's statutory register.”