Business is booming for Brussels bubble lobbyists. There were an estimated 30,000 lobbyists working in the Belgian capital in 2014, making it second only to Washington D.C. Many Europeans have a negative view of all this. They worry that large corporations have too much of influence over EU decision-making, and that there is not enough transparency involved.

However, as long as there are proper rules in places to guarantee ethical behaviour, isn’t lobbying a key part of the democratic process? Shouldn’t stakeholders (including business, but also NGOs, activists, charities, etc.) have the opportunity to put forward their case and explain how new legislation will affect them?

Today, we’re continuing our “Ask” series with the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly. As European Ombudsman, she deals with issues of maladministration, transparency, whistle blowing, and improper lobbying. She’s tasked with investigating complaints from citizens about poor administration by EU institutions or other EU bodies.

What do our readers think about lobbying in the EU? We had a question from Delay, who thinks lobbyists have far too much influence over EU politics. What would Emily O’Reilly say in response?

We also had a comment from Nikolai, who argues that “One man’s lobbying is another man’s advocacy”. However, he adds that it is important for lobbying to be strictly regulated, and conducted openly and according to the rules. Is that happening at the moment? Is undisclosed or improper lobbying being kept to a minimum in the EU?

Does the EU do enough to regulate lobbying? Do lobbyists have too much influence? Is undisclosed lobbying kept to a minimum? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Flazingo Photos

29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    Oh, this is going to be a hot topic. :D

    When EU bodies regularly meet private organisations to coordinate policy and execution, then the regulation of lobbying appears to be a big zero.

    • avatar
      Steven Selleslagh

      The most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard in my entire life Marko Martinović!

    • avatar
      Dee O'brien

      Well you would say that Steven Selleslagh

  2. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    With 236 MEP’s and the unelected European Commission in his back pocket Mr George Soros owns the EU & he does it via lobbying, so you work it out.
    This is the Eurozone in a nutshell:.

    Youth Unemployment:

    Greece: 39%
    Spain: 37.9%
    Italy: 32.7%
    France: 22%


    Germany: 6.6%

    Are you seeing the bigger picture yet ?

    • avatar
      Dee O'brien

      Good old George is attending Davos this year…the world’s elite saving the world one sip of champagne at a time

    • avatar
      Steven Selleslagh

      White a fake family name like yours we’re simply ignoring your statement!

    • avatar
      Ivan ToProvoke

      Its ok. I just want to tell you that EU is wrong. This is the truth

    • avatar
      Dee O'brien

      It needs to go full stop

  3. avatar
    Dee O'brien

    30,000 Lobbyists based in Brussels,do you think they have Joe citizens interests at heart….the Brussels business

  4. avatar
    Andrew Potts

    No business and NGOs are shameless when buying influence. The Open Society publishing a list of allies is a good example, how can you trust any body named to do the right thing when compromised in this fashion.

  5. avatar
    Frank Cunningham

    44 years of anti E.U.headlines from the right wing Tory Press is impossible not to influence people who can see no further.And don’t want to think any further.

  6. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    “Continuous access” and input from business is important. The wishes of the voters are equally important and should be balanced equally continuously. Not every 5 years only- nor by bureaucrats acting as remote and mainly self-serving representatives”.

    The EU concept is therefore often identified by many as a Plutocracy. Why not look at “The “Caux principles”:

    The current EU “lobbying rules and practices” are:

    and could cynically be compared to those of the “Royal Golf Club of Belgium”.

    Ethical behavior in our multi party democratic governments must reflect a “moral capitalism”- not a destructive or captured one.

  7. avatar
    Ivan ToProvoke

    EU is financing feminist lobby, which is a criminal ideology – e.g the Istanbul convention. It imposes different standards and rights for women and men (of course men are injured in all cases)

  8. avatar

    If you have no lobbyists then you have no corruption so the whole experiment fails

  9. avatar
    Barbara Mehlstaub

    Das macht es ja so praktisch: nicht mehr kleine und größere Länder einzeln bearbeiten zu müssen nach dem motto: du machst die gesetze und wir sagen dir wie

  10. avatar
    Rapid Victor

    Unbelievably uninformed comments…so a former teacher- turned-mep who finds himself in econ- com. Is expected to make informed decisions just like that? Rule of Law also entails that laws are applicable, which means technicalities and consequences are being raised. Or possible contradictions. The final decision must be the mep’s. But why so much hatred? NGOs usually employ much dirtier methods than Monsanto even thinks off..

  11. avatar
    Agnes VB-Osborn

    A definite NO! Just look at the German ‘Braunkohle’ lobby. Signing the Paris Climate Agreement (and blaming others for not signing!)but continuing to be among the worst polluters!

  12. avatar
    Venzislav Dermendjiev

    In principle: You need the dialogue with all sides and players.
    However, lobbying of those with heavy financial interests (aka companies, businesses) has to be strictly regulated and should be restricted to a technical minimum, preferably technical Information in a written form or strictly formalised meetings, always with a minimum of 2-3 people from each side in a neutral environment and only with a clearly defined need and purpose of the meeting (e.g. clarification of technicalities), should be allowed´- or similar regulations.
    The EU/EK has to remember her function which is to act in the interest of the long-term common good.

    It has to be taken into consideration that big companies as one side of the common good (job providers) can afford a lot to impress, to finance and organise lobbying and studies, whereas the ones on the other end (consumers and others) have tendentially less money and/or are less organised – which does not make their arguments less valuable from the outset.
    Equally, the company side mostly tends to have short term interests (revenues) whereas the other side’s interests are usually long-term (health, jobs, energy or pension security etc.).
    All this has to be taken into consideration by the regulator and to be counterbalanced accordingly.

    The EU/EC/EP has to also remember that the rules and decisions it makes have an effect on the economy, and that these effects are usually never as desastrous as the companies paint them in case it is not what they want.
    The business will find a new way within a (properly) changed ´regulative framework, this is the principle of a market economy.

    Again: The job of the regulators is to look after the long-term common good, and the companies are only one of many (f)actors and players for this common good.
    To properly regulate lobbying in a restrictive way, tackling also the danger of corruption (see below) is the very necessary first important regulative step – taken by an institution that works and acts by definition for the interest the common cood (EU/EC/EP).

    Corruption as one of the core problems of lobbying has to be tackled effectively and with severe consequences. There is vast academic research and experience on that, it just has to be applied. Officials, incl. MEPs, literally have to be afraid of consequences, otherwise it will not work.

    Important is that the governments of the MSs are also aware of the problem and tackle it. The EU/EC/EP cannot go it alone. But to remain credible it has to take the first step.

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