Citizens can, and indeed should, expect the EU decision-making process to be as transparent and open as possible. The more open the process the easier it is to ensure balanced representation and avoid undue pressure and illegitimate or privileged access to information or to decision-makers. Transparency is also a key part of encouraging European citizens to participate more actively in the democratic life of the EU.
The European Commission has already made significant reforms to its own internal rules to promote greater transparency. Under the Working Methods of the Juncker Commission, as a rule, Commissioners will no longer meet with any organisations which are not listed in the Transparency Register, a voluntary lobbyist register set up to answer core questions such as what interests are being pursued.
This register is operated jointly by the European Parliament and the EU-Commission since 2011. These reforms had results: as of March 1, there are 9,286 entries in the current Transparency Register, up from 7,020 on October 31 2014, before the Commission took office and implemented these reforms.
Moreover, in line with the Transparency Initiative introduced in November 2014, all meetings between interest representatives and the Commissioners, their Cabinets and Commission Director-Generals must be published within two weeks of taking place. In its first year, the Commission published information on more than 6,000 meetings (approximately 5,500 for Commissioners and Cabinets and 600 for Directors-General). The introduction of this new system has effectively made entry on the Transparency Register a mandatory requirement for anybody who wants to meet the most senior EU decision-makers and officials.
President Juncker’s Political Guidelines and the Commission’s 2016 Work Programme both pledge that the Commission will make a proposal for a new mandatory Transparency Register covering all the EU Institutions.
So on March 1 the Commission launched a 12-week public consultation to gather input on the current regime for registration of interested representatives who seek to influence the work of the EU institutions and on its development into a mandatory lobby register covering the European Parliament and Council of the European Union as well as the Commission.
The consultation documents are available in all EU languages to encourage broad feedback. The consultation will close on Tuesday May 24 and can be accessed here.
The public consultation will feed into the proposal the Commission will make later this year. As First Vice-President Frans Timmermans (photo) said, this Commission is changing the way we work by consulting stakeholders more and by being open about who we meet and why. We need to go further by establishing a mandatory register covering all three institutions (the Commission, the Parliament and the Council), ensuring full transparency on the lobbyists that seek to influence EU policy-making.
To help us get this proposal right, we hope to receive as much feedback as possible from citizens and stakeholders from across Europe on how the current system works and how it should evolve.
A European Union that is more transparent and accountable is a Union that will deliver better results for citizens.
George Markopouliotis is head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus