12 MAY 2011
By Leigh Phillips
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The curtain behind which lobbyists hide in the European capital was drawn back a little more on Wednesday (11 May) after the European Parliament backed a joint register of lobbyists for both the chamber and the European Commission.
Until now the, two institutions had separate listings of the lobbyists who approach deputies and officials attempting to bend legislation, registries which have suffered from widespread criticism from democracy campaigners for the questionable accuracy of the information contained within them and for the voluntary nature of the disclosure process.
With the new ‘one-stop shop' lobby register - or ‘transparency register' as it will now be called - the rules have been tightened and fresh staff have been assigned to monitor foul play.
Signing up to the registry however remains voluntary as before - perhaps the main beef transparency campaigners have had with the process, who say that many of the estimated 15-20,000 lobbyists resident in Brussels have yet to sign the existing listing.
But in what both MEPs and campaigners called a "step forward", lobbyists will for the first time have an incentive to sign up, as those who do not will not be awarded an access badge to the parliament's buildings.
The parliament has also endorsed a process whereby leading MEPs must list all the meetings they have with lobbyists in what they are calling a "legislative footprint annex".
There are also new procedures for complaints and sanctions, facets missing from the previous lobby registries.
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