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11 February 2009
WRITTEN QUESTION by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL)
to the Commission
Subject: Effectiveness of self-regulation in connection with the registration of lobbyists and abolition of lobbying practices with a view to raising the public profile of interest groups which influence decision-making
1. Is the Commission aware of the January 2009 report entitled ‘Commission Lobby Register Fails Transparency Test’, drawn up by Alter-EU, which reveals that law, lobbying and public affairs firms are boycotting the Commission's voluntary register of lobbyists en masse?
2. Can the Commission confirm that 85 % of SEAP members (individual lobbyists) are boycotting the register and that three-quarters of EPACA members (an organisation representing the 34 largest lobbying firms) are not included in the register?
3. Why does the Commission describe the register as ‘an experiment’ whilst refusing to set a target for the number of registrations which would prove its effectiveness, even though, in a press report of 22 December 2008, it stated that 700 lobby firms had registered, of which 458 are among the 2 600 firms which are said to be active in Brussels? What yardstick led the Commission to use the phrase ‘a good start’ in connection with the register?
4. Can the Commission confirm that it removes from the list lobbying firms which withhold information, just as on 15 January 2009 it apparently erased the data concerning Gplus, which was honest enough to point out that its client list was incomplete? Will the Commission admit that firms not included have effectively been blacklisted? Does the Commission draw a distinction between ‘remove’ and ‘temporarily remove’, as suggested by Gplus? What is the difference?
5. Does the Commission regard removal from the list as a penalty to be imposed on lobbyists? Why does the Commission regard this measure as effective, given that to judge from their own attitude lobbyists themselves have no wish to secure inclusion on it?
6. Why is the Commission refusing to insist that uncooperative lobbying firms make information about themselves public?
7. Does the decision to postpone the public assessment of the register of lobbyists until after the June 2009 elections mean that voters will have to wait five years before being able to judge the outcome of the Commission's transparency policy and whether self-regulation works, or will the Commission take steps to ensure that voters are provided with an interim assessment before June 2009?
8. How does the Commission assess the value and the truthfulness of the information included in the register thus far and its relevance to its stated objective: ‘inform the public which general or specific interest groups influence the decision-making process of the European institutions and what budget they have for that purpose’? When does the Commission expect to achieve that objective?