To: Undislosed recipients Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 15:26:18 +0100 From: Erik Wesselius
Subject: Open letter to Barroso on lobbying -- follow-up [this time with hyperlinks!]
Dear friends and signatories of the open letter to Commission President Barroso on curbing excessive corporate lobbying power,
Like us, you may have received the attached e-mail from Mr. Christian D. de Fouloy, co-founder of the EUlobby.net website.
This website, an initiative of long-time Brussels lobbyist De Fouloy, tries to promote a voluntary system of registration to provide transparency on lobbying. As it says in the EUlobby editorial:
EULobby is founded on four concepts:
- Free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest.
- Lobbying EU officials and MEPs is a legitimate activity.
- It is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is attempting to influence EU authorities and on what issues.
- A voluntary registration system contributes to openness, transparency and accountability. Most professions, doctors, lawyers, engineers have a professional body, which sets standards for entry into the profession, rules to be abided by members, and disciplines members for any breaches of those rules. Some even have the force of law- you can't practice as a doctor unless you are a member of the medical association, or their rules may even be enshrined in legislation- but that does not detract from their self-regulatory nature.
Such calls for voluntary systems of registration, providing a semblance of transparency, are a common strategy of the PR and lobbying profession, to avoid the introduction of compulsory registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists -- the key demand we make in our open letter to Mr. Barroso.
One day after we released the open letter to Mr. Barroso, we received a public reaction by SEAP, the Society of European Affairs Professionals, strongly opposing compulsory registration for lobbyists and suggesting that the current voluntary SEAP code of conduct would be sufficient if some unspecified sanctions for non-compliance were included.
Apart from a list of signatories, the SEAP code of conduct provides no external transparency at all. In that respect, the EUlobby.net initiative is slightly better, but still completely insufficient because of its voluntary nature and the level of transparency provided. Only a general 'practice description', names of lobbyists, 'representative clients' and 'recent practice areas' would be listed, with no further details or any guarantee of completeness.
In a speech at the occasion of planting the SEAP tree in front of the European Parliament on 6 December 2001, Mr. Rogier Chorus said quite openly why SEAP was set up in 1997:
Five years ago, when in the European Parliament the discussion on introducing a code of conduct for lobbyists was reaching its zenith, a group of prominent European Affairs practitioners founded SEAP, with the twofold ambition to set high standards for the profession, and to improve communications with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. By offering the tree to the Parliament we want to mark the fact that SEAP is a well-established player on the European field, and at the same time we want to express our commitment to the City of Brussels, in which we are so pleased to work.
In the case of EUlobby.net, it is remarkable that its founder, Christian D. de Fouloy, seems to have changed his opinion quite drastically. Only two years ago, in a contribution to the Convention on behalf of his consultancy company Business Advisors International (BAI) Inc., Mr. de Fouloy wrote:
Well, let’s face it,self-regulation has not worked and is not working and the Commission clearly needs to adopt measures which will require a radical change of policy.
He proposed an EU “Lobbyist’s Registration Act", modeled on the Canadian Lobbyist’s Registration Act, which is similar to the US Lobbying Disclosure Act, although less far-reaching (no info on the amounts of money involved).
In conclusion, there seems no reason to support the EUlobby.net initiative, as it would most probably only undermine a serious attempt to secure a system of compulsory registration modeled on the US Lobbying Disclosure Act.As of now, over a hundred groups have signed on to the statement. Early next week, Corporate Europe Observatory will issue a short reaction to the SEAP statement. We will soon be in touch with you about the next steps in the campaign for rolling back excessive influence of corporate lobby groups over EU policies
Erik Wesselius and Olivier Hoedeman,
Corporate Europe Observatory