Standards: Lobbying Transparency via Right to Information Laws
Madrid, 12 December 2013 – Access Info Europe today published a set of recommendations on the information which governments should make available to ensure that there is full transparency around lobbying.
“It is not sufficient to place the burden on lobbyists to publish information: public bodies have an obligation to be transparent about their relations with interest groups,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
The document, Lobby Transparency via the Right to Information contains a series of recommendations on the types of information which public bodies should make available, in most cases proactively. These include details of meetings the lobbyists, copies of information submitted by interest groups, and a clear indication of which information has been taken into consideration when making a decision.
Access Info Europe also examines the application of the “decision making exception” found in most access to information laws. The current standards make clear that it should be possible to make public most documents relating to decision making. In the case of Access Info Europe vs. the Council of the European Union, the judges of the European Court of Justice noted that there is no special protection for the early stages of decision making but that a specific harm has to be demonstrated and balanced against the public interest in knowing the information.
“When it comes to decision making, there is a strong public interest in knowing about the way in which lobbyists are having an impact on the outcome of the decisions,” added Darbishire.
Related lobbying transparency recommendations
The Sunlight Foundation has also published its recommendations on lobbying transparency to be used globally, based in part on their experiences working to make lobbying more transparent in the US.
Surrounding civil society action in the UK to strengthen lobbying reform including a petition signed by Access Info Europe, the Open Knowledge Foundation has published a short piece entitled 5 Reasons to Stop Secret Corporate Lobbying.
Access Info Europe is also a member of the Steering Committee of ALTER-EU, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation, which campaigns for a mandatory lobby register, balanced decision making and stronger ethics regulation at the EU level.