Madrid, 15 July 2013 – France has recently been embroiled in multiple scandals that have revealed a number of situations of conflicts of interest within the public institutions. In order to restore citizens’ trust in their representatives, the French government has made the issue of transparency a high priority on the political agenda.

On 24 April, the Ayrault government proposed before the national assembly’s bureau two drafts laws on the transparency of public life. The texts are now being examined by the French Parliament.

A first step towards better transparency, but progress is still to be made

Access Info supports the French government’s initiative, which should bring important progress in terms of the transparency and the integrity of public decision makers. Among the measures proposed are: the publication of declarations of interest and assets of Members of Parliament and government, a clearer definition of what constitutes professional incompatibilities with regards to second jobs of public officials, and the creation of a High Authority for transparency in public life.

However, the drafts that have been brought to Parliament remain limited. In light of the recent scandals, the drafts seem to focus solely on political decision makers, leaving aside other activities that are however essential to the decision-making process.

Apart from the competence attributed to the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life to establish guidelines to regulate relations with interest groups, lobbying activities are absent from the two drafts. Access Info and a number of other civil society organisations and citizens have signeda letter sent to the French government and parliament,, asking for them to seize the opportunity created by the current legislative negotiations to further regulate lobbying activities.

France lags behind when it comes to regulating lobbying activities. Often seen unfavourably or even denied, lobbying activities are still a reality within the French decision-making process. Today, only two registers (that are not mandatory in practice) exist at the National Assembly and at the Senate. These registers are, however, insufficient as the number of registered persons does not reflect the reality of the lobbying situation in France.

Access Info supports the campaign led by Regards Citoyens and is calling on the French parliament and the French government to fully implement transparency reforms that will guarantee the independence of public officials. It is therefore imperative that the laws on the transparency of public life include measures to regulate lobbying, such as the development of a Code of Conduct which would apply to all persons trying to influence public decision making, as well as the creation of a register in which all lobbyists would be required to declare their activities and expenditures.

Transparency of public life was one of the François Hollande’s campaign promises. In July 2012 he established a Committee to Moralise Public Life, which succeeded a previous Commission created in 2011 for the prevention of conflicts of interests. The urgency and necessity of implementing robust regulations on transparency of public life in France has been demonstrated by the Cahuzac scandal, in which the previous budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac was charged with fiscal fraud (possession of a secret bank account), by the sanitary scandal of the Mediator, and by the lobbying scandal that revealed links between members of parliament and lobbyists from the British American Tobacco company, to name some examples.