EduBourseActualitésThe Commission's register of interest representatives — Frequently asked questions

The Commission’s register of interest representatives — Frequently asked questions

Who is expected to register?

All entities engaged in “activities carried out with the objective of influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of the 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, organising events, meetings or promotional activities (in the offices or in other venues) in support of an objective of interest representation ([1]). This also includes activities that are part of formal consultations on legislative proposals and other open consultations. Certain specific activities do not fall within the scope of the register:

activities of legal and other professional advice, when they relate to the exercise of the fundamental right to a fair trial of a client, including the right of defence in administrative proceedings;
activities of the social partners when they are part of the social dialogue;
activities in response to the Commission’s direct request.
As the title of the register indicates, the Commission encourages all interest representatives to register, including such entities that do not consider themselves “lobbyists”. Registration shows that an organisation represents interests. It does not mean that those registering can be labelled as “lobbyists”.

Are law firms, trade unions and employers’ or trade organisations expected to register?

Yes, they are expected to register: it is not the nature of the organisation which is the determining factor for registration, but the nature of the activities in which the organisation is engaged.

However, law firms, public affairs consultants, certified accountants, etc., giving assistance to a client for an individual case submitted to the Court of Justice or directly related to a competition case or an access-to-document request handled by the Commission do not fall within the scope of the register.

A comparable situation exists when trade unions or employers’ organisations participate in meetings in the framework of social dialogue. They need not register for this purpose. On the other hand, if the same law firm, public affairs consultant, trade union or employers’ organisation takes initiatives outside the social dialogue to promote a specific position in relation to European policies or existing or future legislation, it falls within the scope of interest representation as defined by the Commission and should register.

Are small organisations, or individual lobbyists, also expected to register?

Yes, they are. There is no minimum threshold of membership, turnover, number of employees or anything else. The register is intended for the registration of organisations. Individuals are not expected to register unless they are individuals working as independent interest representatives.

Are public authorities (cities, regions, etc.) expected to register?

Public authorities of any level or geographical origin are not expected to register. However, should such a public entity, for reasons of its own, wish to enter the register, they may do so. This exemption only applies to public entities. It does not apply to any organisation whose legal statute is not a public statute, even if the organisation is totally or partially composed of public authorities.

Are there privileges attached to registration?

There are no privileges attached to registration. Registration does not constitute accreditation and does not entail access to any privileged information. Registration does not imply any form of official recognition by the Commission. There are however two practical consequences of registration:

Upon registration, registrants should indicate the policy areas in which they are interested. When public consultations are launched in those areas by the Commission, registered organisations will receive an e-mail alert, if they so wish.
The Commission is committed to the publication of all the contributions received to its public consultations. Being registered will not affect the right of an organisation to table contributions to public consultations. But, as stated in the Commission’s common standards for consultation, “interested parties must themselves operate in an environment that is transparent, so that the public is aware of the parties involved in the consultation processes and how they conduct themselves. It must be apparent which interests they represent” ([2]). To this end, the Commission will list contributions from unregistered contributors as individual contributions, separately from those from registered contributors which agree to comply with these transparency requirements.
Why is the register voluntary rather than mandatory?

The Commission is ready to trust the profession. The register offers lobbyists legitimacy and recognition as a profession. With self-declaration, the registrant takes responsibility for supplying correct information, and the Commission believes this trust should first be tested, before considering the possibility of more binding regulation.

The Commission wants the register to cover a broad assortment of stakeholders. A mandatory register would require legislation, and with legislation a much narrower definition of ‘interest representative’ would apply. This would create loopholes, and make the playing field uneven. Given the length of legislative procedures, it would also mean no tangible results during this Commission’s term of office. In any event, after one 2022 of operation, the Commission will evaluate the register, in particular regarding participation. If it proves to be unsatisfactory, compulsory registration and reporting will be considered.

On financial disclosure

The financial disclosure requirements are adapted to the specific situation of the various categories of registrants.

Registrants of the first category (professional consultancies and law firms involved in lobbying EU institutions) are expected to disclose their turnover linked to lobbying all the EU institutions, based on the latest annual accounts. This turnover should correspond to the registrant’s total revenue from all clients for such activities. Registrants will be asked to list the clients on behalf of whom they lobby the EU institutions. This list, established in decreasing order of contract value, will be presented by placing their clients in boxes representing ranges either in absolute amounts (brackets of €50 000) or in percentages (brackets of 10%). The choice of either approach is left up to the registrant.
Registrants of the second category (“in-house” lobbyists and trade associations) are expected to provide an estimate of the cost associated with the direct lobbying of all the EU institutions. This estimate has no legally binding effects. For registrants with an office in Brussels, this estimate could start from the overall budget spent for this office (personnel costs and expenditure on materials, office lease, membership of associations, etc.), from which the cost of non-lobbying activities would be deducted. Organisations without an office in Brussels could roughly estimate the percentage of time their employees are spending on lobbying EU institutions and estimate, on this basis, the costs allocated to these activities.
Registrants of the third and fourth categories (NGOs and think-tanks as well as other organisations) have to publish the overall budget of their organisation. Once this amount has been entered, the main sources of funding, such as public (European, national or sub-national) funding, donations, membership fees, etc. have to be indicated.
In all categories, registrants will be able to supply more information and explanations regarding the figures presented and how they were calculated. They can refer to guidelines of their associations or organisations. Furthermore, registrants may provide more detailed financial information, if they so wish.

Will the Commission publish statistics on the cost of lobbying the EU institutions?

No, the Commission has no plans to produce aggregate financial statistics or analysis of the amounts disclosed. However, the Commission will provide information on the total numbers of registrants and the categories to which they belong.

How often should the data in the register be updated?

The minimum requirement is to update the information annually, but registrants should update the information more often if they believe there have been significant changes in any of the reporting requirements.

Will the Commission publish all the data organisations enter in the register?

Yes, all information entered in the register will be public. The only exception to this is the information concerning the contact person designated for the register’s operations, which will be used internally only.

Is the register free of charge for registrants, or will they have to pay fees?

Registration will be free of charge.

Who will monitor compliance with the code of conduct, and check that false information is not included in the register?

The Commission will monitor compliance and decide on sanctions. Controls will be carried out if there is a complaint introduced by a third party or if the Commission has grounds for believing that there is a violation of its code of conduct. However, all factual information in the register is provided under the sole responsibility of the registrant.

Is there a one-stop-shop for registration for all EU institutions?

The invitation to register and to accept the code of conduct will apply to interest representatives in their dealings with the European Commission. The Commission has invited the other institutions to examine the possibility of closer cooperation in this area. The Commission is following with great interest the ongoing discussions in the Parliament and remains open to cooperation with the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on the development of a one-stop-shop registration system.

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[1] COM(2007) 127 final of 21 March 2007 and COM(2008) 323 of 27 May 2008. [2] COM(2002) 704 final of 11.12.2002.
Pierre Perrin-Monlouis
Pierre Perrin-Monlouis
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