22:19 GMT16 January 2021
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    An influential group of campaigners for greater transparency over big business lobbying in the European Union has slammed the current plans for the creation of a list of lobbyists, saying it is too weak to prevent behind-closed-doors mass lobbying by multinationals.

    Organizations representing a large cross-section of lobbyists called for strong reform of the EU's lobby register. The joint letter, initiated by Transparency International EU, calls for mandatory rules for all lobbyists and demands greater transparency around who EU officials and politicians meet with.

    An open letter to the EU stated:

    "It's time for a robust and credible transparency regime. With signals from within our society suggesting a decreasing trust in the EU institutions and the European project itself at stake, we simply cannot afford to further delay reforms and go on with business as usual. The risk of undue influence and corruption in the political process seriously undermines the functioning of a democracy."

    The joint letter — led by Transparency International — was drafted and signed together with the major associations representing EU public affairs professionals (SEAP), consultancies (EPACA) and lawyers (CCBE) and is supported by umbrella groups, such as the European Youth Forum and Social Platform.

    Big Business

    Analysis of the 4,318 lobby meetings declared by the top tier of European Commission officials between December 2014 and June 2015 shows that more than 75% were with corporate lobbyists. This compares to 18% with NGOs, 4% with think tanks and 2% with local authorities. Google, General Electric and Airbus are some of the most active lobbyists at this level, with 25 to 29 meetings each. Google and General Electric are also some of the biggest spenders in Brussels, each declaring EU lobby budgets of around €3.5 million per year.

    Of the 7,908 organizations who have voluntarily registered in the EU Transparency Register — the register of EU lobbyists —  4,879 seek to influence political decisions of the European Union on behalf of corporate interests. Exxon Mobil, Shell and Microsoft are the top three companies in terms of lobby budgets according to their declarations made to the EU Transparency Register.

    ​The campaigners are calling for the EU Transparency register to be made mandatory by putting in place an effective system to motivate all organizations influencing EU decision-making to sign up to the EU Transparency Register. Unregistered lobby organizations should, for example, no longer be able to meet officials, organize events, and participate in hearings or expert groups. They also want the new Transparency Register to cover all EU institutions.

    Related:

    EU Lobbying Register Branded 'Meaningless' Amid Calls for More Openness
    Campaigners Slam German Parliament for Secrecy Over Lobbying
    EU Watchdog Slams Secret Lobbying by Tobacco Giants
    Tags:
    lobbying, lobbyists, transparency, European Parliament, Google, General Electric, European Council, Transparency International, Airbus, European Union, Europe
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