Europe

New incentives for lobbying register

European Parliament Committee The European Union’s rules for lobbying are to be tightened up after a working group recommended new penalties on organisations that do not sign up to its register.

The group, set up by the Commission and Parliament, considered whether to make the register mandatory but found that there was no effective legal framework or political will for this move.

Instead, it opted for incentives to encourage registration e.g. patronage and speaking rights at committee hearings. The working group hopes that the new rules will be passed by the Parliament before its election in May and come into force by 1 January 2015.

The register was introduced in 2011 and covers EU institutions. Its rationale is that citizens have a right to expect communication between decision-makers and interest groups to be transparent and this should avoid “undue pressure” or “illegitimate or privileged access to information or to decision makers.”

Seven local organisations are registered: the Consumer Council; Co-operation Ireland; the Law Society of Northern Ireland; the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland; Short Brothers plc; Tidy Northern Ireland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

The UK and Irish governments do not have registers of lobbyists but UK ministers are required to disclose gifts, hospitality and external meetings on a quarterly basis. Executive ministers

must disclose gifts and hospitality through the Assembly’s register of interests but there is no formal record of their external meetings. The EU register can be consulted online at ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister

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