On 12 November, Corporate Europe Observatory publicly responded to the e-mail that Mr. Christian de Fouloy of EUlobby.net had sent to all signatories of the Open Letter to Mr. Barroso on Curbing Corporate Lobbying Power in the EU
On the same day, Mr. De Fouloy reacted to Corporate Europe Observatory with a statement in which he dismisses the call of the Open Letter to Mr. Barroso for compulsory registration and transparency rules for lobbyists at the EU institutions. Mr. De Fouloy argues that EUlobby.net's voluntary registration system constitutes 'a practical step forward toward increased transparency, openness and accountability.'
With all respect, this claim cannot be taken serious. As anyone can check out for themselves, the information currently provided in the EUlobby.net database is minimal. On 16 November 2004, only 29 lobbyists and 143 organisations are registered. Most registry entries only contain basic contact details which can be found easily elsewhere on the internet. The entry for Mr. De Fouloy specifies: 'Business Advisors International (BAI) Inc. is a Public Affairs Consultancy. Christian D. de Fouloy is the co-founder of EUlobby.net and is widely recognised in EU circles.' (register checked on 16 November 2004)
Lobbyists can enter additional information in fields titled: 'practice description', 'representative clients', 'career history', 'education' and 'recent practice areas'. For lobby organisations and companies there are fields for 'practice description', 'lobbyists', 'representative clients' and 'recent practice areas'. But this only makes the register resemble some kind of Lobbying Yellow Pages -- an impression furthered by the existence of an 'enhanced membership (i.e. registration) fee' of 250€, which will buy the 'enhanced' member's name and logo on the front page of EUlobby.net.
Even when EUlobby.net would have more registrants and more information per registrant, the database would still be far too limited in scope to allow for any meaningful scrutiny of decision-making processes.
An example from the US register clearly shows that EUlobby.net may look nice at first sight, but falls way short of what a system modeled on the US Lobbying Disclosure Act could achieve in terms of transparency. Browsing through Halliburton's record for the period between 1 January and 30 June this year, one learns that in this period, the company spent some 250,000 US$ on lobbying activities. Through the records one can see that in this period Halliburton has lobbied to influence the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act (page 2 of the record), to promote the inclusion of energy services in the ongoing WTO services negotiations (page 6 of the record), on the issue of 'contingency contracting related to military operations' (page 7 of the record) and several other issues. In each case there is detailed info about which institutions were lobbied.1
Compared to the a voluntary, privatised system for registration and transparency as provided by EUlobby.net, a public European lobbying disclosure register would have the crucial advantage of impartiality and credibility. Learning from practical experience with the Canadian and US systems of disclosure, the invoked danger of 'cumbersome bureaucracy' should be easily avoided. But most importantly, a private, commercial forum like EUlobby.net does not provide the neutral space needed for the disclosure of information on lobbying activities.
Mr. De Fouloy's arguments against a compulsory system of registration and transparency are unconvincing. He concludes that a statutory Register of lobbyists would in all likelihood fail to achieve its purpose, except at the dubious expense of giving advantage to those included in it... and that it would give professional access to a limited number of people."
We do not see how registration and reporting requirements for firms and organisations targeting the EU institutions (with a lobbying budget over a certain threshold) would provide registrants with any exclusive rights. According to Art. 46-1 of the proposed EU Constitution, the EU institutions have an obligation to "give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action" 2.
Obligatory transparency on lobbying activities would enable citizens to better monitor who is trying to influence whom in Brussels. This would increase the likelihood of citizens actively engaging to counter the current dominance of corporate players. Of course the obligations would also apply to non-governmental organisations lobbying the EU institutions (if their lobbying budget surpasses a certain threshold).
In the open letter to Mr. Barroso we make a clear call for opening up decision-making processes and ending privileged access rewarded to certain industry groupings. This is quite the opposite of limiting the possibilities for access and participation.
Furthermore, although Mr. De Fouloy seems to have changed his mind, the text of his contribution to the Convention, written only two years ago speaks for itself: '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.' We appreciate this honest statement and certainly see it as strengthening our argument for obligatory transparency. In the spirit of his contribution to the Convention, we sincerely invite Mr. De Fouloy to sign on to our open letter.
At the end of his statement, Mr. de Fouloy suggests that Corporate Europe Observatory would not be transparent about its activities. He may have overlooked the page with general information on Corporate Europe Observatory, which can be found on our website.
The members of the Corporate Europe Observatory team are not full-time lobbyists in need for a permanent access pass to the European Parliament building. We only visit the Parliament a few times per year, normally for public hearings or conferences. We regularly attend Civil Society Dialogue meetings organised by the European Commission's DG Trade. CEO is registered in the DG Trade civil society database