Lobby groups and transparency
The European Parliament is committed to promoting transparency and ethics when it comes to lobbying activities. Together with the European Commission, it has set up a common transparency register. MEPs also publish information on their contacts with lobby groups.
Why is the dialogue between EU institutions and lobby groups important?
The EU institutions interact with a wide range of groups and organisations representing specific interests and undertaking lobbying activities. This is a legitimate and necessary part of the decision-making process to make sure that EU policies reflect people’s real needs.
These interest representatives can be private, public or non-governmental bodies. They can provide Parliament with knowledge and specific expertise in numerous economic, social, environmental and scientific areas. They can play a key role in the open, pluralist dialogue on which a democratic system is based.
The Treaty on European Union provides a framework for and seeks to foster relations between the European institutions and European political leaders, on the one hand, and civil society, EU citizens and representative associations, on the other.
The Transparency Register
The European Parliament and the European Commission have set up a joint Transparency Register to demonstrate their commitment to being open and transparent.
All organisations are invited to register voluntarily if they pursue activities designed to directly or indirectly influence policymaking, policy implementation and decision-making in the EU institutions. However, registration is mandatory to request access to the European Parliament. You can check the relevant rules on access.
Registered interest representatives can only request such access online.
The transparency register makes it easier for people to obtain information on self-employed individuals and organisations in contact with the EU institutions, as well as statistical data on all registered parties and a listing of individuals with access authorisation to the European Parliament.
This "one-stop shop" system also facilitates registration procedures for representatives of specific interests and incorporates previously separate Parliament and Commission registers.
Upon registration, interest representatives may enjoy certain benefits in their relations with the European Parliament, provided they respect the Code of Conduct for registrants.
Aside from requesting access to the Parliament, only registered interest representatives may be invited as speakers to public hearings of committees, support and participate in the activities of members’ intergroups and unofficial groupings, receive email alerts about committee business, co-host events and seek patronage from the President.
The Interinstitutional Agreement on the establishment of a common Transparency Register sets out what interest representation or lobbying activities are covered, the type of information registrants are expected to provide, a code of conduct for registrants and a procedure for alerts and complaints about registered organisations.
The transparency register is operated jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission. You can read the annual report here:
Transparency on contacts with lobby groups
Publication of scheduled meetings
Rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs are required for each report to publish online information on their scheduled meetings with interest representatives falling under the scope of the interinstitutional agreement on the transparency register.
This means any meeting with the purpose of influencing the policy or decision-making process of the European institutions, irrespective of the place.
All other members, including committee vice-chairs, delegation chairs or coordinators, have no legal obligation to publish details of their meetings, but may do so on a voluntary basis.
The information on meetings is published on members’ profile pages.
Voluntary legislative footprint
MEPs drafting reports or opinions can choose to attach a legislative footprint to their reports.
Such a list can demonstrate the range of outside expertise and opinions the rapporteur has received. It is then published with the report after its adoption in committee and enables people to see whom the rapporteur has heard from ahead of the final vote by the whole Parliament.
It is independent of the publication of meetings with interest representatives, but rapporteurs can use it to complement their declarations of meetings with interest representatives.
Declaration of support for intergroups and other unofficial groupings
Intergroups are unofficial groupings formed by individual members for the purpose of holding informal exchanges of views on specific issues and of promoting contacts between Members and civil society.
Lobby groups who are registered in the transparency register may participate in activities organised by intergroups or other unofficial groupings on Parliament’s premises by offering support to them, or by co-hosting their events.
An annual declaration of any support received, whether in cash or in kind (e.g. secretarial assistance),has to be made by the chairs of intergroups and be updated every year. All these declarations and the list of members of each intergroup can be accessed at the link below (see “More information”).
Other unofficial groupings are also required to declare, by the end of the following month, any support, whether in cash or in kind, which members have not declared individually in accordance with their obligations under the Code of Conduct for Members.
More information: Rules of procedure: Rule 35 - Intergroups
Interactions of staff with interest representatives
Parliament staff members, as indeed all EU civil servants, are required to preserve their professional and personal independence.
They must act in a manner consistent with the independence of their position and the principle of integrity, as laid down in the staff regulations.
To this end, there are some Practical recommendations for public officials’ interaction with interest representatives.