Response from Roger Liddle (July 18 2005)
Amsterdam, January 18 2005
To: Commissioner Peter Mandelson
Dear Mr. Mandelson,
Herewith I would like to bring to your attention the Open Letter titled "European Commission Must Act to Curb Excessive Corporate Lobbying Power", which was sent to Mr. Barroso on October 25th 2004. The letter, in the meanwhile signed by over 260 civil society groups from around Europe, calls for far stricter ethics and transparency requirements around lobbying towards the European Union institutions. The letter also demands an end to the privileged access and influence of corporate lobby groups like the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) and the European Services Forum (ESF).
On November 17th the European Commission's department for relations with civil society responded on behalf of Mr. Barroso. The reply outlines the current situation vis-à-vis lobbying at the EU institutions and refers to the voluntary codes of conduct developed by the public affairs industry. To our disappointment, the response does not discuss the central point of our Open Letter: the introduction of EU lobbying disclosure legislation. We believe that EU lobbying disclosure rules (building on and going beyond the legislation currently in place in the US and Canada) would significantly improve the possibilities for democratic scrutiny and thus boost the quality of EU decision-making process. The positive impact would be far more significant than has been the case in the US, where corporate campaign donations continue to distort the political process and thus to a large extent undermine the effect of transparency. The response from the department for relations with civil society fails to comment on the role of the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) and the European Services Forum (ESF).
We forward you the Open Letter because it concerns important issues within your portfolio as Commissioner for International Trade. During your confirmatory hearing in the European Parliament on October 4th 2004, several questions were asked on issues also raised in the Open Letter. On the question from one Member of the European Parliament about whether you would take the initiative to set up a register of lobbyists at the Commission and initiate a proposal for lobbying disclosure rules, you replied that you were happy to discuss this further. On the question from another Member of the European Parliament about the relations between DG Trade and structures like the TABD and the ESF and whether you would provide increased transparency around these relations, you replied “I don't feel the need to have any secrets”.
We would be very interested both in your opinion about lobbying disclosure and how you assess the role of the TABD and the ESF, after several months as EU Trade Commissioner. Are you planning policy changes or new initiatives on these issues? We hope you will consider the proposals outlined in the Open Letter and look forward to your response.
We have also forwarded the Open Letter to your European Commission colleagues Siim Kallas and Margot Wallström, responsible for respectively Administrative Affairs and Institutional Reform.