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    EU Ombudsman Lays Down Lobbying Rules After 'Turbulent' Year

    © AFP 2019 / GEORGES GOBET
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    In a year which has seen a massive rise in complaints about the lack of transparency within the EU - particularly over lobbying and "revolving doors" appointments - the EU Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly has reiterated the need for strict new guidelines for all meetings of EU officials and lobbyists.

    There was an outcry when Jose Manuel Barroso — who was Commission president from 2004 to 2014 — was appointed non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International (GSI) in the most high-profile example of "revolving doors" — EU officials resigning to take up lobbying roles with major companies.

    In its announcement of Barroso's appointment, the US investment banks said: "His perspective, judgement and counsel will add great value to our GSI Board of Directors, Goldman Sachs, our shareholders and our people." However, critics said it would afford Barroso enormous lobbying power.

    Meanwhile, the former UK Commissioner to the EU Jonathan Hill, was appointed as senior adviser to global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which is listed in the Commission's register as a lobbying outfit. It's listing says the firm has a "track record in successfully supporting the world's leading national and multinational corporations, financial institutions and investors."

    ​"It was a turbulent year for the EU and the challenges will continue. It is not always obvious to public officials as to what constitutes acceptable lobbying. What interactions make a genuine public interest contribution to effective policy-making and what might be the exercise of undue influence? This checklist will help ordinary civil servants to navigate these occasionally tricky waters," said Ms. O'Reilly.

    "This is about giving public officials the tools to ensure that lobbying is carried out in an appropriate manner. Most public officials are extremely conscientious but in a fast-paced environment, where multiple meetings and other interactions are the norm, it helps to have some clear guidance on this issue so that their work is not undermined by poorly understood ethical and transparency standards," she said, issuing her Annual Report 2016.

    'Trilogues'

    In particular, Ms. O'Reilly said that so called "trilogues" — informal negotiations on EU legislative proposals between the European Parliament and Council of the EU in the presence of the Commission — should be more transparent. 

    She said dates of trilogue meetings and summary agendas should be made public, giving the names of the decision-makers present in trilogue meetings.

    She recommended that documents that track the main stages of the process should be published as soon as possible after the negotiations end.

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    Tags:
    EU revolving doors, lobbying, transparency, EU Ombudsman, European Commission, European Union, Emily O'Reilly, Jonathan Hill, Jose Manuel Barroso, Europe, Strasbourg, Brussels
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