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Form of government and lobbies in UK and UE. A comparative perspective.

di - 21 Febbraio 2013
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Lobbies in Brussels were progressively able to exert influence along the European policy process from initiation and ratification of policy at the Council of Ministers, setting of the agenda and formulation at European Commission led forums, reformulation of policy at the European Parliament committees, to the final interpretation, harmonization and implementation of regulation in the national state. Following and accessing every passage of the policy process, EU interest groups become an important supply of information on the development and knowledge of EU public policies and a potential source of legitimacy for policy-makers (Lupo, Fasone 2012, pp. 37 ss.). Today, there are no less that 15000 lobbyists working around them European institutions and that’s where “Brussels DC” (referring Washington DC) comes from.
Political systems need legitimacy from their subjects in order to undertake a full range of governance functions. Legitimacy arises from two sources: inputs (the ability to participate in political decision making) and effectiveness (results). The limited nature of the EU as a political regime can partly be explained through its lack of input legitimacy”. Because of this lack, continues the author, the EU is an ideal venue for interest groups which have very positive meaning, in fact “they bring much needed resources to policy making, implementation, and monitoring in some accounts of how European integration develops, they help the EU to acquire more policy competencies by bringing irresistible demands to member state doorsteps, and assist in the popular identification with the European Union”(Greenwood J., 2004, p. 146). Interest groups are under this light not only helpful in policy making, but also in making the EU closer to citizens. Is not a coincidence some authors consider the involvement of lobbies in the Brussels decision making process a way to reduce the “democratic deficit” that characterizes the European institutions (Santonastaso D., 2004) .
The entry into force (2009) of the Treaty of Lisbon has given to citizens, group of interests and associations a central role in the definition of the European policies. In the first place as provided in Article 10 of the Treaty on European Union: “Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen”. The implications are not just in terms of “subsidiarity”, but also in generating a proper “opening” of the decision making-process to the instances of community, as it has been formalized in Article 11 “The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action”. Within this framework “the institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society”, confirmed also by the role of the European Commission in carrying out “broad consultations” with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are “coherent and transparent” (The Treaty on European Union, Article 10 (3); Article 11). 

3.2.1. Lobbying and the European Commission
Until may 2005, at the Commission level, lobbies always operated through participation, more or less informally and more or less in transparency, in Expert Groups that compose several (1000 or more?) technical committees of the Commission. In this context, lobbies used to participate to decision making process, but outside any rule and with a lack of transparency. In 1993 the Commission invited lobbyists (COM1993, C1666/04) to adopt their own code of conduct on the basis of minimum criteria proposed, like: acting in an honest manner always declaring the interest they represent; not disseminate misleading information; not offer any form of inducement in order to obtain information or to receive preferential treatment. This self-regulation system encouraged by the Commission has been followed by various organization of European public affairs (consultants and consultancy firms), which have adopted a voluntary code of conduct based on these minimum standards proposed by Brussels.
In 2005, the Commissioner against fraud, Jim Kallas, stressing the importance of a “high level of transparency”, ensuring that the Union is “open to public scrutiny and accountable for its work”, launched the European Transparency Initiative (ETI). The project intended to work on a series of transparency-related measure proposed by the Commission in the White Paper on European Governance (COM2001, 428) in terms of access to documents; launching of database providing information about consultative bodies and expert groups advising the Commission; proposing a wide consultation of stakeholders in giving a contribution to implement the Commission’s “better lawmaking” policy. This public consultation has been opened in 2006 on the base of a Green Paper on European Transparency Initiative (COM2006, 194).“It is a combination of rules enforcing supervision and a broad commitment to the values underpinning the rules that amounts to a credible system”, explained Kallas adding that “because there is nothing wrong with lobbying, there should be nothing to hide” (Kallas S., 2006). The initiative proposed three objectives: (i) made more transparent the decision making process for the allocation of European funds; (ii) revise the public officials’ Ethical code and the rules for the European documents’ consultation; (iii) define an organic and common normative framework regarding the relations between European institutions and lobbies.
In the Green Paper, we can see for the first time a definition of “lobbying”, meaning all the activities carried out with the scope of influencing the policy formulation and decision-making process of the European institutions. Accordingly, “lobbyists” are defined as persons carrying out such activities, working in a variety of organizations such as public affairs consultancies, law firms, NGOs, think-tanks, corporate lobby units (“in-house representatives”) or trade associations. Lobbying become a legitimate part of the democratic system, recognized as tool for bringing important issue to the attention of the European institutions. At the same time, undue influence should not be exercised on European institutions and when lobby groups seek to contribute to EU policy development, it must be clear to the general public “which input” they provide to the European decision-makers. For this reason the Green Paper proposed: (i) a voluntary registration system run by the Commission with clear incentives for lobbyists to register; (ii) a common code of conduct for all lobbyists or at least common minimum requirements; (iii) a system of monitoring and sanctions to be applied in case of incorrect registration and/or breach of the code of conduct.

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