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Europe

Calls for Tighter Rules for EU Lobbyists Grow Louder

As the influence of lobbyists seeking to shape European Union laws increases, an EU committee has adopted a plan intended to force lobbyists to adhere to a code of conduct.

Men shaking hands in front of EU flag

Thousands of lobby groups are stationed in Brussels to be near the EU Parliament

The European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee voted on Tuesday, April 1, in favor of a compulsory register for the some 15,000 lobbyists working to influence EU policies via the EU assembly, states and the bloc's executive European Commission.

"[The committee's] report represents a decisive step for a new culture of transparency in Brussels," said German Jo Leinen, the committee's chairman. "In the future, strict rules will apply to lobbying."

The plan will require lobbyists to sign a mandatory public register and risk being barred if they break a code of conduct.

Critics say the lobbyists have held far too much sway in the drafting of EU laws and measures concerning everything from blacklisting bad chemicals to deciding how to set carbon dioxide emission caps. The EU assembly and member-states adopt laws that directly affect the daily lives of 490 million people.

The outcome of those laws can have a major impact on companies doing business in the 27-nation bloc.

A tightening of existing rules

Flags outside the EU Parliament building

The EU Parliament's not just surrounded by flags, but also lobbyists

The EU parliament is expected to endorse the constitutional affairs committee's report, which would tighten existing rules. The plan would also extend the voluntary register the European Commission plans to install in the next few months.

The constitutional affairs committee would also like to implement measures to force full financial disclosure by lobbyists and consultants, including their turnover and expenses associated with EU lobbying. Non-governmental organizations and think tanks would also have to disclose their budget and main sources of funding.

The committee likewise agreed that rapporteurs -- lawmakers who guide a bill through the assembly -- be allowed to attach to their reports a list of names of lobbyists who were consulted and had a "significant input" during the drafting of the bill's text.

Lawmakers also suggested this "legislative footprint" be used by the European Commission, which proposes legislation.

In addition to the 15,000 lobbyists in Brussels, there are an estimated 2,500 lobby organizations working there, with some 5,000 lobbyists operating in parliament alone.

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