Madrid/Brussels, 28 July 2017 – With upcoming negotiations on reforming the state of EU lobbying transparency imminent, the legal advice given to the Commission and Council on the legal basis for lobby reform is back under the spotlight following appeals this week to the EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.
Access Info Europe’s and MEP Dennis de Jong’s parallel complaints to the EU watchdog challenge the refusals by the two institutions to make transparent their legal advice on whether or not it’s possible under the EU Treaties to set up a mandatory EU lobby register with sanctions.
“Civil society and MEPs are being blocked from properly debating with the Council and Commission the best model for the future lobby register because they are withholding from us their legal analysis of the possible options,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
Civil society organisations such as ALTER EU have argued there is a legal basis for binding legislation on lobbying transparency in the EU, but the Commission decided that the best route was to pursue an instrument that was not legislation, but rather a looser “inter-institutional agreement”. This is arguably a much weaker mechanism that reduces the scope of sanctions for non-compliance and would not necessarily mean all EU institutions are bound to its rules, such as the Council itself.
“If there may be legal obstacles to the Council’s full participation in the transparency register, citizens have a right to know. Then it gives citizens the opportunity to participate and provide solutions to those obstacles,” stated Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong (GUE-NGL).
The complaints highlight the violations of the EU transparency rules on the grounds that:
» both institutions failed to properly apply the exception relating to the protection of legal advice;
» both institutions failed to properly apply the exception relating to the protection of the decision-making process;
» both institutions failed to take into account the existence of overriding public interests in disclosure.
The complaint submitted by Access Info, prepared by pro bono lawyers from The Good Lobby, also asks the Ombudsman to look into the lengthy delays by the Commission in answering the request, as it seriously impedes the possibility for fact-based public debate and participation in the decision-making process.
All three institutions are to enter trilogue negotiations after the summer to discuss the Commission´s proposal. The Parliament has indicated it would like stronger commitments from the other two institutions (although not necessarily committing itself to the same expectations), whilst the Council has questioned whether it is able to meaningfully participate in any such lobby transparency regime.
For more information, please contact:
Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Andreas Pavlou, Campaigner and Researcher | Access Info Europe
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