Thursday, April 28, 2005

European Commissioner Siim Kallas on lobbying in the EU

Lobbying on local agenda as EU urges transparency

The above article, from the Budapest Business Journal, contains some interesting quotes from Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit, and Anti-Fraud

“Lobbies do participate in the decision-making process in democratic societies, and it is vital that other points of view are able to be expressed and taken into account,” Siim Kallas, the European commissioner responsible for administration, audit and anti-fraud, stated in an e-mail sent to the BBJ. “But the situation is pretty confused, as about 15,000 lobbies gravitating around EU institutions offer a very diversified picture, from law firms acting for their clients, PR companies, industrial federations, and private companies, to NGOs – and no general rules apply to them. Their transparency is insufficient in comparison to the growing impact of their activities, and we would like to prevent this from becoming a problem.”

“I don’t favor the approach of the U.S. on lobbying, which contains strict legislation under which all lobbyists have to declare their finances, what they spend, for what and on whom,” he stated. “We will soon have a round-table discussion with representatives of those involved in this field, after which the commission will present concrete proposals.”
Lobbying is a fact of political life. However, unlike Commissioner Kallas, I believe lobbying should be very transparent where finances are concerned; not to require it to be so is a recipe for corruption in Brussels. I’m sure that the strict regulation of lobbyists in the USA was put in place for very good reasons. At least the Hungarian authorities appear a little more aware of this, and will they will seek to apply stricter legislation than that favoured by Commissioner Kallas. Unless lobbyists get at the Hungarian government, and members of parliament, and persuade them to water down the proposed regulations to the extent that they are useless.