Madrid – Access Info Europe has welcomed the 25 November decision by the European Commission to proactively publish information about meetings between high level officials and lobbyists, but has raised concerns that the measures do not go far enough and contain loopholes which could seriously undermine the transparency initiative.
Of particular concern is the lack of independent criteria for ascertaining whether or not the name of a particular lobbyist should be withheld from the public, with this hinging solely on whether or not the lobbyists provide “unambiguous consent”.
This loophole leaves transparency in the hands of the lobbyists, who are free to place their own limits on public scrutiny. No mention is made of the possibility of the Commission refusing to meet with lobbyists who do not wish to declare their names without providing a compelling reason.
Another shortcoming of the new transparency measures is that they apply to Commissioners, their cabinet, and to Directors-General, but do not cover lower-level officials, such as Heads of Unit or Deputy Directors-General, who are often the target of lobbying activities.
The Commission’s Decisions set out exceptions to lobby transparency; these mirror the exceptions in the EU’s access to documents rules, but without any mention of a public interest test. It is not clear if, in these cases, there will be a record of the meeting or an explanation of why a particular exception applies.
A further concern is that there is no appeals or oversight mechanism, making it unclear how campaigners or citizens can complain should, for example, they wish to challenge the application of an exception to a particular meeting.
There is also no reference to last week’s promise by Vice President Timmermans that the Commission would only meet with lobbyists that are registered in the – still voluntary – Transparency Register.
“The rapid adoption of this policy is a positive sign that the European Commission is heeding to calls from the public for greater transparency, in the realisation that its legitimacy hinges on openness,” said Pam Bartlett Quintanilla, Access Info Campaigner.
“Access Info Europe is calling on the Commission to close the loopholes in its new policy in order to ensure real accountability that will allay citizens’ fears that the Brussels bureaucracy benefits some over others,” added Quintanilla.
Notes to Editors
As of 1 December 2014, EU Commissioners, cabinet staff and Directors General will publish information about meetings with lobbyists, including the date, location, name of the public officials involved, name of the lobbyist and the subject matter discussed. This information will be published a maximum of two weeks after the meetings take place.
Click here to read the two Decisions adopted on 25 November 2014:
• Commission decision on the publication of information on meetings held between Members of the Commission and organisations or self-employed individuals
• Commission Decision on the publication of information on meetings held between Directors-General of the Commission and organisations or self-employed individuals
Click here to watch the full interventions here from Commissioners Timmermans and Malstrom and lobbying and TTIP transparency (19/11/2014).
For more information, please contact:
Pam Bartlett Quintanilla | Access Info Europe
email@example.com +34 913 656 558