A few days ago, a broader coalition of European civil society organizations launched a campaign to make some noise around the influence of big businesses on EU institutions. The timing seems perfect as the upcoming EU elections could create some more serious buy-in from candidates for an effective lobbyist registry. Fixing the current system — which is broken in so many ways — has been on the table for quite a while now, without any success.
So what’s the problem? As a new study shows, a vast majority of banks and financial lobby groups working to influence EU banking regulations are not registered within the EU’s volunteer lobbyist system, and other industries are notoriously opaque too. As a result, EU citizens have no idea how many laws that affect their lives directly have the fingerprints of lobbyists all over them – from climate to public health to data protection – or how their MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) are influenced by the agenda of big business.
The new Politics for People website – launched as the centerpiece of the broader civic campaign – provides an easy way for EU citizens to directly contact their MEPs through social media channels. People can urge their politicians running for re-election to sign a pledge, and support the interest of the broader public as opposed to the voice of those with money. The website also features case studies explaining how excessive industry lobbying impacts upon the daily lives of ordinary EU citizens, and how the “fire power” of big business can impede meaningful reform.
A lot of prominent MEPs have already signed the pledge, which is a truly encouraging sign. Two days ago, the European Parliament issued a resolution upon the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) to prepare a legislative proposal for a mandatory register by 2016. It also asks the Commission to, in the meantime, introduce ambitious measures to encourage lobbyists to join the register — for instance, by limiting the number of meetings with unregistered lobbyists.
For our friends living across the pond: you can take action now!