Poland wants to persuade the Council of Ministers to participate in the EU’s joint register of lobbyists and other interest representatives during its presidency. Despite the long history of member-state reticence about adopting the same approach to transparency as the European Commission and the European Parliament, the presidency is dismissive of the scale of the challenge.
Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, Poland’s state secretary for European affairs, told the Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee on Monday (4 July): “For the Council it is not a big issue because lobbying is done elsewhere, mostly in national capitals.”
He said he hoped that the Council could conclude an agreement in the autumn with the Commission and the Parliament.
The joint register was launched on 23 June when the Parliament’s register was merged with the Commission’s register of interest representatives to form the ‘joint transparency register’. The Commission is currently transferring 4,000 entities registered on the old lobby listings onto the joint register.
Diplomats and Council officials had repeatedly rejected overtures from MEPs and the Commission to join, arguing that participation would be superfluous, because lobbying of member states took place at national level, not at the Council.
But after the Commission and Parliament deal last November to merge their separate lobby listings into one, Finland, Sweden and the UK led a group of member states in signalling that they were willing to join the register.
The Hungarian presidency of the Council of Ministers indicated in May that the Council was ready to discuss “possible forms” of participation, and it announced at the end of June that member states were open to starting negotiations.
But Parliament officials said they expect the negotiations to be complex. Many member states have concerns over how their permanent representations in Brussels will be affected by joining the register, in particular how they would disclose information about who they have meetings with. Diana Wallis, a UK Liberal MEP who played a prominent role in creating the joint register, has offered assurances that the register’s rules require lobbyists, not diplomats, to disclose whom they meet.
Initial talks between the Commission and Council have already taken place and formal negotiations are planned to start in September.
A spokesman for Maroš Šefc?ovic?, the European commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, said that having the Council join would “add to the effectiveness and credibility” of the joint register.
Under the joint register, all interest groups – including consultancies, law firms, church networks and think-tanks – that seek to influence the EU’s decision-making processes will be expected to register on a public list. Access badges to the Parliament will be given only to those that register and sign up to a code of conduct.
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