The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency (ALTER-EU), to which HEAL is a signatory, called the register "weak and unbalanced". The Commission lobby register is voluntary: a major flaw. Other shortcomings:
There will be no names of individual lobbyists. This means no exposure of scandals, no trace of revolving doors, no information on possible conflicts of interest and continued confusion over the number of lobbyists active in Brussels;
The rules for financial disclosure are weak and skewed in favour of industry lobbyists;
Different interest groups are allowed to calculate data in different ways, such as in percentage bands of total expenses or in wide ranges;
Financial reporting will not be comparable, since industry lobbyists are asked to give a “good faith estimate” of their lobbying expenditure in Brussels, while public interest organisations must disclose their total budget. Transparency campaigners demand that lobbyists be treated equally and disclose lobbying expenses as well as overall budgets;
The lack of common data disclosure rules means that the information published cannot be compared or aggregated. For example, journalists will not be able to ascertain how much money was spent by the agro-chemical lobby as a whole to influence legislators, but only what each company has spent, excluding fees paid to consultancies.
"As it stands, the register cannot be used as the basis for a common lobbyists’ register with Parliament and the Council. When you compare it to other tested systems, such as in the US, its voluntary nature and distortion in fact make it look like one of the world’s weakest registers," said Craig Holman, from US transparency group Public Citizen.
Read the full ALTER EU press release
On 5 June, the EU Civil Society Contact Group, of which HEAL is a member through the Green 10, had sent a letter to the president of the European Commission asking for a more transparent registration procedure. The Civil Society Contact Group expressed two serious concerns in the registration system of interest representatives:
Registration is only for organisations and not for individual lobbyists.
Depending on the structure of your organisation, you are not asked the same financial information.
The Civil Society Contact Group calls every person or organisation concerned by these unfortunate flaws of the registration procedure to send its model letter to Barroso as well.
The model letter can be found here
Written on 9 July 2008.