Gianluca Sgueo, Lobbying in the EU. The cost of a lack of transparency, EP, Briefing September 2015
Over the past 20 years, European Union (EU) institutions have expanded their regulatory competences in areas such as competition law, industrial policy, and consumer protection. In consequence, policy proposals have become more complex. This has helped to increase the importance of technical expertise, often provided by outside interest groups, in the legislative process. It has also prompted calls to regulate lobbying practices and to enhance the transparency of EU decision-making. However, criticism of both the balance of interests represented through lobbying and transparency in EU decision-making continues. Concerns relate to the lack of official (and reliable) estimates of the number and type of interest groups, the amount of money spent on lobbying and possible conflicts of interest. It is difficult to calculate the cost of opaque (or under-regulated) lobbying, either in monetary terms or in loss of confidence in EU institutions. It may be argued, however, that lobbying regulation may have a positive impact in both these regards. It can also be argued that greater transparency has the potential to boost economic growth and confidence in the EU, as well as to reduce the EU’s administrative costs. Efforts to improve lobbying transparency at EU level are ongoing. A revised European Transparency Register was launched in January 2015. Later that same year, the European Commission published a roadmap for the adoption of a mandatory register, and the Council of the EU initiated discussion on initial steps towards joining the transparency register already established by the Commission and the Parliament.