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

di - 21 Febbraio 2013
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European Commission committed itself to launch the new Register of lobbyist (on a voluntary basis), improving the general transparency through a better application of the rules on the consultation process and reorganizing correspondent the web site. Respecting the deadlines announced, the 27th of May 2008 the European Commission launched the Register of lobbyists providing a general overview, open for public scrutiny, of groups engaged in lobbying the Commission. All entities engaged in activities carried out with the objective of influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of European institutions are expected to register. These activities include: contacting members or officials of the EU institutions, preparing, circulating and communicating letters, information material or argumentation and position papers, organizing events, meetings or promotional activities (in the offices or in other venues) in support of an objective of interest representation. Registration does not constitute accreditation and does not entail access to any privileged information and financial disclosure requirements. So, why a lobbyist should register himself? A European Commission explained, that groups and lobbyists which are registered would be given an opportunity to indicate their specific interest and, in return, would be alerted to consultations in those specific areas. So, only lobbyists who are in the register would be automatically alerted by the Commission.

 3.2.2. Lobbying and the European Parliament
The Parliament was the first European institution to address the phenomenon of an increasing number of interest groups at European level and especially the consequences of this evolution for the legislative process. In July 1996, the European Parliament approved a modification of Article 9 of the Rules of Procedures and introduced Annexes I and IX with some consistent modifications in term of lobbying (Lupo, Fasone, 2012, pp. 37 and follows).
Regarding the “Internal” rules, it must be underlined the Code of conduct for parliamentarians, which included first of all the obligation to make public their own interests. The MPs must record any professional activities, function or paid activity, declaring before the correspondent public debate any eventual interests linked with the theme which will be discussed. The code is valid both for parliamentarians and for members of their staff. It is also included the prohibition to accept gifts and advantages directly motivated to their charge. Duty to declare any gift or earning in any form. The register has to be updated constantly and any year, otherwise there is a system of sanctions which can reach up to the suspension of the parliamentarian.
A further interesting issue in terms of lobbying is the Intergroups which are subject to internal rules adopted by the Conference of Presidents on December 16, 1999 (last updated on February 14, 2008), which set out the conditions under the Intergroups may be established at the beginning of each parliamentary term and their operating rules. Intergroups can be formed of Members from any political group and any committee, with a view to holding informal exchanges of views on particular subjects and promoting contact between Members and civil society: Intergroups are not Parliament bodies and therefore may not express Parliament’s opinion. Nevertheless, Intergroup undoubtedly represents a lobbying instrument and that’s why the above mentioned internal rules disposed that Chairs of Intergroups are required to declare any support they receive in cash or kind, according to the same criteria applicable to Members as individuals. The declarations must be updated every year and are filed in a public register held by the Quaestors. Today (November 2012) there are 27 Intergroups inscribed, from the Sustainable Hunting, Biodiversity Countryside Activities and Forest one, to the Ways of Caminos de Santiago or the Anti-Racism & Diversity one.
Regarding the “External” rules, the Article 9 of the mentioned Rules of Procedures (nota) disposes that the “long term visitors” of the European Parliament must be recorder on a Public register, declaring all information in terms of persona data, company or organization represented, interests involved and name of parliamentarians which could offer guarantees or references on the applicant. The “long term visitor” received a badge in order to enter and to be recognized in the European Parliament buildings, he is informed on the activity of the Permanent Commissions and has the unofficial right to be heard in the Commissions. The register of accredited lobbyist has been published (since 2003) on the EP website, but in a form of an alphabetical list providing only the names of the badge holders and of the organization they represent: it gives no indication of the interest for which a lobbyist is acting. On the other side, he respects a Code of conduct which includes disposition in order to guarantee the widest transparency in his relations with the parliamentarians, with the obligation to always declare the interest represented and not to dispose official documents received in the European Parliament. This is the case of a “minimal” model of regulation, with the disposition of just few rules aimed to permit lobbying in general framework of transparency. But there is an important weakness which must be underlined, consisting in the rules’ lack of a definition of “lobbying”.
In order to solve this contradiction, the European Parliament adopted, on May 8, 2008 (547 votes to 24 and 59 abstentions) a Resolution on the development of the framework for the activities of interest representatives (lobbyists) in the European institutions. The European Parliament “recognizes the influence of lobby group on EU decision-making process and therefore considers it essential that Members of Parliament should know the identity of the organizations represented by lobby groups” and, at the same time “emphasizes that equal access to all the EU institutions is an absolute prerequisite for the Union’s legitimacy and trust among its citizens”, considering the importance for the civil society to have free access to the European institution, “first and foremost to the Parliament”
(Hon. Ingo Friedrich, Rapporteur for the Constitutional Affairs Commission, Act No. A6-0105/2008, European Parliament, May 8, 2008).

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