Lobby millions missing from transparency register

22 June 2011

Brussels, June 22, 2011 – Millions of euros of lobby spending are missing from the lobby register declarations made by key industry groups, the ALTER-EU coalition has revealed today [1].

On the eve of the launch of the new joint transparency register for the Parliament and Commission [2], new research by ALTER-EU analyses the European Commission's lobby register declarations of the 40 biggest industry associations and found there to be under-reporting of lobby expenditure by a very significant number of groups, including BusinessEurope, Eurelectric and the Confederation of the Food and Drinks Industries (CIAA). ALTER-EU estimates that millions of euros could be missing from the declarations of many industry associations and it has drawn up a table of the 10 'worst offenders'. [3]

ALTER-EU spokesperson Olivier Hoedeman says: "In lobbying size really does matter, but some of the largest lobby groups in Brussels are declaring what are ludicrously small sums, considering their staffing levels and their own claims of importance on their websites. These groups are very active on the Brussels scene yet millions of euros
spent on lobbying remain out of sight for the public."

Olivier Hoedeman continued: "Fertilizers Europe has a staff of at least nine people and claims a total annual budget of four million euros per year but say they spent only 400 euros in 2010 on lobbying! [4] Meanwhile the Association of European Airlines has at least 22 staff and says it represents 36 carriers with a combined annual turnover of 82 billion euros [5]. Yet its 2009 declaration states an annual lobby expenditure of less than 50,000 euros. We suspect that these declarations, and others like them, represent under-reporting of the real expenditure dedicated to lobbying the EU institutions."

ALTER-EU says it is vital that all organisations are open about their lobbying expenditure.

"The whole point of the register is that organisations should be open and transparent about their lobbying activities – including how much they spend on such activities. Financial transparency is an essential component of ethical lobbying. With the launch of the new register tomorrow, the Commission and the Parliament must give a clear message to industry lobbyists that under-reporting is not acceptable. To secure public ALTER-EU trust, the institutions should ensure that citizens can easily access all relevant information about who is trying to influence them and with what resources."

The ALTER-EU survey also shows that seven out of the 40 groups analysed have yet to join the Commission's register [6], while other groups continue to make very unclear declarations. For example, some organisations register a lobby spend "greater than 1,000,000 euros", but are not any more specific [7].

ALTER-EU welcomes the new joint register and the fact that registration will be linked to permanent access badges to the Parliament. However, it is imperative that the new register deals with the existing shortcomings [8]. ALTER-EU believes that the new register will be meaningless transparency-wise without improved data quality and reliability and that this is key to the credibility of European institutions and public trust. The authorities must be proactive in their monitoring of data on the register and set out a roadmap for how the register will ultimately be made mandatory.

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Notes:

[1] The report "The missing millions – how the new lobby register needs to tackle the 'under-reporting' by industry lobby groups" is available for download at: http://www.alter-eu.org/documents/2011/06/22/the-missing-millions-of-the-lobby-register

[2] On Thursday 23 June, the European Commission and European Parliament will launch the new joint 'transparency' register.

[3] Of the 40 industry associations analysed, the 10 with the lowest declared lobby spend per staff member are: Fertilizers Europe, Association of European Airlines (AEA), European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), European Aluminium Association (EAA), Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), Confederation of the Food and
Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA), Eurelectric, European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (COLIPA), European Copper Institute and BusinessEurope.

[4] Information from Fertilizers Europe's declaration in the Commission register, viewed 15 June 2011.

[5] See AEA website

[6] Of the 40 industry associations analysed, the seven who were not signed up (May 2011) are: Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD), Plastics Europe, European Cement Association, Conservation of Clean Air and Water in Europe (CONCAWE), European Association of Metals (EUROMETAUX), European
Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) and Brewers of Europe.

[7] Of the 40 industry associations analysed, four make a declaration of ">=1,000,000". They are: Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations in the European Union/ Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives in the European Union (COPA-COGECA), EuroChambres, European Banking Federation and European Landowners' Organisation. Meanwhile, the Airports Council International – European Region only states its total budget and not its lobby expenditure.

[8] See ALTER-EU website

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The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of over 160 civil society groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms. See www.alter-eu.org

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