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Is transparency the key to citizens’ trust?

11-04-2019

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help ...

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help strengthen citizens’ trust in policy-makers and enhance the accountability of public administrations. In this regard, regulation of lobbying (the exchange between policy makers and stakeholders), and bolstering the integrity of this process, is often considered a vital ingredient. Public expectations for increased transparency of the exchange between policy-makers and interest representatives varies from one political system to the next, but it has increasingly become a topic of debate for parliaments across Europe, and a regular demand during election campaigns.

New lobbying law in France

04-07-2018

Since 1 May 2018, France's new lobbying law is fully implemented. Part and parcel of recent legislation on transparency (Sapin II package), it was adopted on 9 December 2016, providing a regulatory framework for lobbying activities and establishing a mandatory national register ('le repertoire') for lobbyists. In a step-by-step process, first, the repertoire, in which all active interest representatives must sign up, was created on 1 July 2017. After registering by 1 January 2018, interest representatives ...

Since 1 May 2018, France's new lobbying law is fully implemented. Part and parcel of recent legislation on transparency (Sapin II package), it was adopted on 9 December 2016, providing a regulatory framework for lobbying activities and establishing a mandatory national register ('le repertoire') for lobbyists. In a step-by-step process, first, the repertoire, in which all active interest representatives must sign up, was created on 1 July 2017. After registering by 1 January 2018, interest representatives were then under the obligation to report their lobbying activities in this repertoire by 30 April 2018. The repertoire, with just over 1 00 registrants to date, is overseen by the 'Haute Autorité pour la Transparence de la Vie Publique' (HATVP). In France, the cultural acceptance of lobbying as a profession has been slow, and the new law will make a huge difference in terms of making lobbying activities public, with a regulation closely following the Irish example. The Sapin II package aims for a general increase in public accountability and transparency of the decision-making processes. Some incremental steps in this direction had been taken previously, primarily with the establishment of the HATVP in January 2014 as an independent body to oversee the integrity and transparency of the national public institutions.

Revolving doors in the EU and US

04-07-2018

The flow of officials and politicians between the public and private sector has in the past few years given rise to calls for more transparency and accountability. In order to mitigate the reputational damage to public institutions by problematic use of the 'revolving door', this phenomenon is increasingly being regulated at national level. In the United States, President Trump recently changed the rules put in place by his predecessor to slow the revolving door. As shown by press coverage, the US ...

The flow of officials and politicians between the public and private sector has in the past few years given rise to calls for more transparency and accountability. In order to mitigate the reputational damage to public institutions by problematic use of the 'revolving door', this phenomenon is increasingly being regulated at national level. In the United States, President Trump recently changed the rules put in place by his predecessor to slow the revolving door. As shown by press coverage, the US public remains unconvinced. Scepticism may be fuelled by new exceptions made to the rules – retroactive ethics pledge waivers – and the refusal of the White House to disclose the numbers or beneficiaries of said waivers. Watchdog organisations argue that not only has the Trump administration so far failed to 'drain the swamp', it has ended up doing quite the opposite. In the EU, where revolving door cases are increasingly being covered in the media, both the European Parliament and Commission have adopted Codes of Conduct, regulating the activities of current and former Members, Commissioners, and even staff. The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has on numerous occasions spoken out in favour of further measures, such as 'cooling-off periods', and has carried out several inquiries into potentially problematic revolving door cases. Following calls from Parliament, the Juncker Commission adopted a new and stronger Code of Conduct for Commissioners early in 2018. Even so, no one single Code can hope to bring an end to the debate.

Regulating lobbying in Canada

03-05-2017

The recent populist backlash against traditional political systems in many countries has put the issue of ethics at the forefront of government attempts to demonstrate that public policy is carried out without undue influence or interference from vested interests. As one of the first four countries in the world to regulate parliamentary lobbying activities, Canada provides an interesting example of legislation aimed at boosting transparency, honesty and integrity in public decision-making. Evolving ...

The recent populist backlash against traditional political systems in many countries has put the issue of ethics at the forefront of government attempts to demonstrate that public policy is carried out without undue influence or interference from vested interests. As one of the first four countries in the world to regulate parliamentary lobbying activities, Canada provides an interesting example of legislation aimed at boosting transparency, honesty and integrity in public decision-making. Evolving from the 1989 Lobbyists Registration Act, today’s Lobbying Act lays out the types of activities concerned and the processes of lobbying regulation, including sanctions, leading to a new wave of investigations and rulings. While a decision on the European Commission’s proposal for an obligatory transparency register is awaited, registration with the Registry of Lobbyists in Canada is already mandatory for any individual who is paid to carry out lobbying activities, on their own or on behalf of others. Lobbying activities are considered to include all oral and arranged communications with a public office about legislative proposals, bills, resolutions or grants. Consultant lobbyists must also declare meetings held with public office-holders, and communications they make regarding contracts for grants, on a monthly basis. Reporting takes the form of regular monthly ‘returns’, lodged with the Commissioner of Lobbying. In cases of conviction for a breach of the rules, sanctions can include fines and imprisonment. The lobbyists’ code of conduct, established in consultation with the lobbying community, is enforced by the Commissioner of Lobbying and provides guidance on access to public office-holders, conflicts of interest, and gifts. However, there are no fines or imprisonment for breaches of this code.

Lobbying regulation framework in Poland

12-12-2016

Poland became one of the first countries in Europe to regulate lobbying activities with the introduction of its Lobbying Act, which entered into force on 7 March 2006. It aims to increase the transparency of lobbying in three ways: 1) an obligation for the government and ministries to publish their legislative agendas; 2) the creation of a lobby register; 3) requiring all public authorities participating in the law-making process to declare their lobby contacts. The Lobbying Act introduced the concept ...

Poland became one of the first countries in Europe to regulate lobbying activities with the introduction of its Lobbying Act, which entered into force on 7 March 2006. It aims to increase the transparency of lobbying in three ways: 1) an obligation for the government and ministries to publish their legislative agendas; 2) the creation of a lobby register; 3) requiring all public authorities participating in the law-making process to declare their lobby contacts. The Lobbying Act introduced the concept of 'professional lobbying', defined as a paid action performed on behalf of third parties aimed at influencing a public authority in the legislative process. It also set up a register for those who carry out such activities. There is a fee required upon registration, and in the event of lobbying by an unregistered entity, the minister responsible for administrative affairs can issue a fine. Apart from the lobby register set up under the Lobbying Act, the two parliamentary chambers keep their own registers of lobbyists accessing their premises. However, as these three registers lack any relevant information on where and how lobbyists seek to gain influence, and have gathered only around 400 entries over 10 years, they have been criticised for not providing reliable information on the lobbying landscape in Poland.

EU Transparency Register

26-04-2016

Widespread lobbying in the EU institutions has led to criticism regarding the transparency and accountability of the EU's decision-making process. In response to these concerns, the Parliament set up its transparency register in 1995, followed by the Commission in 2008. The two institutions merged their instruments in a joint European Transparency Register (TR) in 2011 on the basis of an Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA). So far, the Council has remained only an observer to the system. The TR is ...

Widespread lobbying in the EU institutions has led to criticism regarding the transparency and accountability of the EU's decision-making process. In response to these concerns, the Parliament set up its transparency register in 1995, followed by the Commission in 2008. The two institutions merged their instruments in a joint European Transparency Register (TR) in 2011 on the basis of an Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA). So far, the Council has remained only an observer to the system. The TR is a voluntary system of registration for entities seeking to directly or indirectly influence the EU decision-making process. It has grown at a rate of around 1 000 organisations a year, to reach over 9 000 organisations today. While it is very difficult to make estimates on the actual coverage of the register, an academic study in 2013 already found the register to cover 60-75% of lobbying organisations active at EU level. In line with the IIA, a political review of the system took place in 2013-2014. As a result, a new improved registration system was introduced in January 2015. Parliament has been calling for a mandatory register for lobbyists interacting with the EU institutions since 2008. It has argued that a mandatory register would ensure better standards for lobbying and more transparency. The topic has become increasingly prominent, especially since Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put the issue on the political agenda, committing to introduce a proposal for a mandatory system by end 2016, as requested by Parliament. Furthermore, from 1 December 2014 onwards, the Commission publishes information on meetings of Commissioners, members of their cabinets and Directors-General with lobbyists. It is currently running a public consultation on the proposal for a mandatory register. Laws in Member States on lobbying regulation vary. Mandatory registration systems exist in only a few countries, with the most recent law being introduced in Ireland. This is an updated edition of a briefing published in December 2014.

EU Transparency Register

02-12-2014

Widespread lobbying in the EU institutions has led to criticism regarding the transparency and accountability of the EU's decision-making process. In response to these concerns, the Parliament set up its transparency register in 1995, followed by the Commission in 2008. The two institutions merged their two instruments in a joint European Transparency Register (TR) in 2011 on the basis of an Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA). So far, the Council has remained only an observer to the system. The ...

Widespread lobbying in the EU institutions has led to criticism regarding the transparency and accountability of the EU's decision-making process. In response to these concerns, the Parliament set up its transparency register in 1995, followed by the Commission in 2008. The two institutions merged their two instruments in a joint European Transparency Register (TR) in 2011 on the basis of an Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA). So far, the Council has remained only an observer to the system. The TR is a voluntary system of registration for entities seeking to directly or indirectly influence the EU decision-making process. It has grown at a rate of around 1 000 organisations a year, to reach over 7 000 organisations today. While it is very difficult to make estimates on the actual coverage of the register, a recent academic study (2013) found the register to cover 60-75% of lobbying organisations active at EU level. In line with the IIA, a political review of the system took place in 2013-14. As a result, a new improved registration system will be introduced in January 2015. Parliament has been calling for a mandatory register for lobbyists active within the EU institutions since 2008. It has argued that a mandatory register would ensure full compliance by all lobbyists with the code of conduct. The topic has become increasingly prominent, especially since Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker put the issue on the political agenda, committing to introduce a proposal for a mandatory system by 2016, as requested by Parliament. Furthermore, from 1 December 2014 onwards, the Commission publishes information on meetings of Commissioners, members of their cabinets and Directors-General with lobbyists. The laws in Member States vary with regard to lobbying regulation. Mandatory registration systems exist only in Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Austria and the UK. The Irish Parliament is currently working on legislation introducing such a regime. Voluntary registration systems exist in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

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