EP approval for lobbyists code

The European Parliament this week approved a code of conduct aimed at regulating the activities of the estimated 3,000 lobbyists operating in Strasbourg and Brussels.

The European Parliament this week approved a code of conduct aimed

at regulating the activities of the estimated 3,000 lobbyists operating

in Strasbourg and Brussels.



Passed on 13 May, the amendments to the parliament’s rules of procedure

adopt most of the proposals put forward by UK socialist MEP Glynn Ford

last year (PR Week, 26 July, 1996).



The code includes rules obliging MEPs to list their interests in a

members’ register and to declare any assistance given by lobbyists. It

bans the donation of free gifts to MEPs, although lobbyists can still

offer assistance in cash or in kind, such as funding a fact-finding

mission to another country.



In addition, the code obliges lobbyists to inform MEPs whom they

represent and bans them from trying to gain access to MEPs under false

pretences.



It also prevents lobbyists from selling parliamentary documents and from

claiming to have an official relationship with the parliament.



New rules on the status of parliamentary assistants were shelved pending

a separate report later this year, while a proposal obliging lobbyists

to submit an annual report of their visits to and from the parliament

was dropped.



Lobbyists who breach the rules, which come into force on 28 May, will be

refused an entry pass to the parliament’s buildings.



Lobbyists have welcomed the new code. Cabinet Stewart managing director

Catherine Stewart, who is also a member of the newly-founded Society of

European Affairs Practitioners, said: ’Most of us comply with those kind

of rules anyway, but what we must make sure is that parliament makes the

register freely available.’



She added that SEAP would also request clarification over rules

governing the sale of documents, since the circulation of official

papers is part of a lobbyist’s everyday work.



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