Monday, 3 August 2009

On the voluntary lobby register

I received a question regarding the Commission's voluntary lobby register in the comments to this post, and I would like to share it - and my answer - with you.

unregistered advisor asked:
"I'd be very interested to hear your unbiased opinion about the REAL need for a lobbyist register.. especially a voluntary one, and more specifically what the point if of "financial disclosure". THe whole issue between Friend of the Earth and CEFIC is laughable...."
My short answer:
"My unbiased opinion (which sounds like a nice oxymoron to me :-) ) is that a voluntary register is a nice little toy, not more and not less.

I think that there should be a mandatory register - publicly available and including financial data - for any lobbyist who wants to interact with an EU institution and its officials. Officials should then refrain from interacting with any non-registered lobbyist.

I see this unchecked voluntary register more as a test range, a possibility to exert some public pressure for transparency. Its real sense remains still rather unclear to me.
What do you think?


Finn Myrstad said...

I agree with you Julian. Working as a lobbyist myself, I think there should be no problems in "revealing" who you are, who you work for and how much money I spend on it.

The challenge is, as you know, to define the areas lobbyism (law-firms, think-tanks, etc), but I think that can be overcome if there is a will.

But one problem with your proposal can be to "ban" non-registered lobbyist, as it in theory at least, can arguably create an even larger distance between citizens and politicians. "Normal" people can have troubles meeting politicians if they for some reasons are regarded/defined as lobbyist. In other words, the definition of a lobbyist needs to be clear. Just a thought from the top of my head.

But I support very strongly the idea of a mandatory registry.