On 15 December, Parliament, Council and Commission reached a final political agreement to strengthen transparent and ethical interest representation.
The agreement establishes principles and rules for a coordinated approach to transparent and ethical interest representation at EU level, building a common culture of transparency while taking into account the signatory institutions' respective specificities.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová said: “Today is a good day for transparency in the European Union. All three EU institutions will respect the same principles. I am glad that the transparency standards applied by the Commission have been a good example. Citizens deserve to know whom the decision-makers are meeting and who is trying to influence new legislation and policy. This is key for European democracy.”
A wide scope
The reinforced Transparency Register will apply to all three institutions, including the Council for the first time. Other European Union institutions and bodies can voluntarily use it too, thereby increasing the potential for greater transparency at EU level. The member states' permanent representations will also take part through unilateral voluntary measures.
Activities aimed at influencing the decision-making processes or the formulation or implementation of policy or legislation at EU-level will fall within the Transparency Register's scope. The negotiators agreed on a non-exhaustive list that includes organising meetings or events, contributing to public consultations, communication campaigns, and preparing position papers or amendments. The same types of activities by third countries will also be covered, when they are carried out by entities without diplomatic status or through intermediaries. Interest representatives will have to declare the interests and objectives they promote, as well as to specify the clients they represent. All registrants will need to provide information on the resources that they devote to interest representation activities, with a new focus on sources of funding.
Some activities will remain possible without registration, such as spontaneous meetings, providing information at the request of the institutions, legal advice, and activities by social partners, political parties, intergovernmental organisations or public authorities of the member states. However, associations and networks of such public authorities engaging in interest representation activities can register, if they choose to do so. In order to avoid unnecessary administrative burden, activities carried out by interest representatives exclusively on behalf of an association or network of which they are a part will be considered to be activities of that network or association.
Conditionality and complementary transparency measures
Each signatory institution will make registration of interest representatives a precondition for certain activities, and may put in place complementary transparency measures to encourage registration. In doing so, the institutions will ensure that those measures are consistent with the agreement and contribute to a high standard of transparent and ethical interest representation. All measures must be made publicly available on a dedicated webpage. You can read more on this in the e relevant press release (7.12.2020).
Code of conduct and operational structure
Applicants must observe a code of conduct in order to be eligible for registration. Stronger provisions on monitoring and investigations ensure that effective action can be taken if the code of conduct is not observed, potentially resulting in the removal of registrants. The existing Joint Transparency Register Secretariat in charge of these processes will evolve into a tripartite operational structure, in which the three institutions will be represented on an equal footing. A Management Board will oversee the overall implementation of the Agreement. Find out more in the relevant press release (24.11.2020).
A press conference (at 15.45 on 15 December, in Parliament's Anna Politkovskaya press conference room) will be held with the negotiators, Parliament's Vice-President Katarina Barley and Constitutional Affairs Committee Member Danuta Hübner, German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth for the Presidency of the Council, and Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová. Follow live or on VOD on EbS and Parliament's Multimedia Centre.
The agreement will have to undergo internal adoption procedures in each institution, after which it can be signed and enter into force. For Parliament, this means it will be referred to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, and then tabled for a vote by the full House. In the Council, it will be submitted for approval by the Committee of Permanent Representatives and afterwards adopted at Council level. In the Commission, the College will need to formally adopt the Agreement and empower Vice-President Jourová to sign it on behalf of the Commission.
The Commission presented its proposal for a new inter-institutional agreement on a mandatory Transparency Register for interest representatives covering the Parliament, Council and the Commission in 2016. Since 2011, the Parliament and the Commission have jointly operated a public register for interest representatives. The Council has been an observer since 2014.
For More Information
The Commission's transparency policy: https://ec.europa.eu/info/about-european-commission/service-standards-and-principles/transparency_en
The Transparency Register: https://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/homePage.do?redir=false&locale=en
More information can be found on the dedicated EP webpage.