Over fifty percent of the laws that govern European Union countries are made in Brussels – they impact on all aspects of life for the EU's 500 million citizens. This law-making process is influenced by between 15,000 and 30,000 lobbyists, two thirds of whom represent companies' interests. The lack of tight regulation around lobbying means that the real scale and influence of corporate lobbying over policy preparation is difficult to gauge and even more challenging to counter.
Transparency in lobbying is crucial to guard against undue influence of big business over key policy areas such as the environment, climate, resources, and food. Secrecy allows for backroom deals and privileged access, and enables powerful interest groups to continue profit-driven lobbying at the expense of more climate- and consumer-friendly regulation.
Friends of the Earth Europe, as an active member of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the EU (ALTER-EU), is calling for tighter rules to guarantee transparent and ethical lobbying. Transparency is key to promoting the interests of people and planet in all areas of our work towards social, economic and environmental justice.
The existing 'Transparency Register', set up jointly by the European Commission and European Parliament, does not go far enough to ensure full disclosure is made over corporate influence. It is voluntary, and only links registration to the obtainment of access passes to the European Parliament. It does not regulate lobbying outside the institutions. The quality of the data provided by the register is also cause for concern, with under-reporting by major companies and lobby groups still a reality. We campaign for a fully mandatory register that ensures high-quality data about who is trying to influence who in Brussels.
Friends of the Earth Europe seeks to expose, counter and resist deceptive lobbying practices. We research and expose abuses, and challenge cases of corporate groups using privileged access to unduly influence policy-makers. The lack of rules on ethics means that this undue influence affects policies with real-life impacts on people and planet, as well as citizens' trust in decision-makers.
We have organised the EU Worst Lobbying Awards for a number of years, to expose the most unacceptable practices of lobby groups. Read more about the EU Worst Lobbying Awards.
The right to know is a prerequisite for a healthy democracy in which citizens can exert their fundamental rights of participation and scrutiny, and have the chance to counter the influence of powerful lobby groups. Friends of the Earth Europe has struggled to get significant access to documents from the European Commission and other institutions. We campaign for the full implementation of existing rights on access to information, in particular when it comes to environmental information. We promote a broad vision of access to documents, where non-disclosure and secrecy is the exception rather than the rule. We encourage a transformation into a more open political culture in which proactive transparency prevails.