Citizen Lobbyist is returning with a new episode next week! Our podcast hosts, Fiorella Lavorgna and Professor Alberto Alemanno will continue demystifying lobbying, this time touching upon lobbying regulations and the most effective ways to achieve them. This episode’s guests are Margarida Silva, Researcher and Campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, Joseph Foti, Chief Research Office Open Government Partnership and Daniel Freund, Member of the European Parliament.
For more than four years now, the European Union institutions have been working on an improved lobbying regime, including a tripartite transparency register concerning the Commission, the Parliament and the Council. The end game of the interinstitutional agreement is to have the three institutions committed to meet only with lobbyists listed in the transparency register.
Unfortunately, the Council is still showing reluctance in applying the same transparency rules to which the Commission and the Parliament have already committed to. Just recently, France, together with Hungary expressed reservations on a joint declaration which would see European states agree to make meetings between ambassadors and lobbyists conditional on their registration in the European Union transparency register for the duration of the member states’ Council presidency.
Protecting decision-making processes is not just about fighting for more transparency. It is also about enabling equal access to power. And having lobbying meetings listed on a common transparency register would publicly show which interests are represented at the decision-making level and which are not at all.
“When we look at the lobbying register, we find that there is an imbalance. Corporate lobbyists have more people and way more budget when compared to NGOs and academics. But I am not sure if this asymmetry also results in the same imbalance on the actual influence on the legislative text. It can be that certain actors with a lot less money are more successful and get more of their amendments passed on legislation.” – Daniel Freund, Member of the European Union
This episode will be discussing EU institutional agreement on lobbying, its influence at the EU and national level as well as its loopholes, including the EU lobbying regulatory measures adequate to monitor new forms of lobbying such as the ones practised by big tech companies.
“I don’t think the big tech strategy is different compared to the one used by other industries, but the amount of money they are pouring to exercise influence is different, or I would say, it is on steroids: the amount of money that Google spends on lobbying is the highest in Europe for a company. And it is also the amount of money that they spend on funding think tanks, academic researchers and universities. There is also the “soft power” aspect of Google. Indeed they found media groups, civil society organisations. All these things they sort of compound together and they create a quite big influence machine.” – Margarida Silva, Researcher and Campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory
The guests will also reveal ways in which civil society is ensured to have the same access and influence to elite representatives as big corporations.
“In some countries where we work, things are completely secret. 100%. And in those cases having the door open is a positive step forward. In some other countries, doors are wide open but only certain groups have real access to decision making. And this is where affirmative actions need to be taken.“ – Joseph Foti, Chief Research Office Open Government Partnership
Finally, Professor Alberto Alemanno presents a new understanding of lobbying as a legitimate form of participation that instead of being levelled down through largely ineffective regulation must be levelled up so as to proactively facilitate access to power. He will be discussing some power shifting reforms as seen in his latest academic paper “Levelling the EU participatory playing field”. To foster a more participatory environment, his research suggests ideas such a “civic time-off“, lobbying aid, advocacy skill-sharing and a public consultation fee for corporate stakeholders to offset the disparity of resources between the haves and have‐nots in the administrative process so as to equalise access to EU policy-making.
To find out more, stay tuned for Episode 8 will air next week!