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Lobbyist register to boost rulemaking transparency

09-Jun-2008

A registers of lobbyists to the European Commission, including a code of conduct, will go live later this month, with the aim of increasing transparency in the dealings of groups that influence policy and decision-making.

The new register, go live on June 23, is aimed at enhancing public trust in EU institutions, and increasing accountability in EU policymaking. It covers all sectors, and springs out of a green paper published in 2006 as part of the European Transparency Initiative, which the Commission says "identified the need for a more structured fr5amework for the activities of lobbyists".



A number of important and controversial pieces of food legislation are presently making their way through the European rule-making process. For instance, the new EU labelling directive has been the subject of fierce commentary from a variety of quarters.



The CIAA (Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries in the EU), which represents the European food manufacturing sector, for instance, published a detailed critique of the proposal at the end of January.



Its concerns at the proposal as it currently stands include consumer confusion over the co-existence of European with national schemes. The 3mm rule for font size for mandatory information has also raised eyebrows, since it will impact on the branding - and, as a result, consumer product recognition.



A CIAA representative was not available today to comment on whether the association will be part of the register, and the impact this may have on designing laws to govern the food sector.



Other hot regulations under debate at present include amendments to the novel foods regulation, and the new packaging of legislation governing food additives.



The Commission says it recognises that lobbying is "a legitimate, even essential part of demoncratic decision making, whether it is carried out by consultancies, private companies, NGOs, law firms, think tanks or trade associations".



Chris Whitehouse, managing director of The Whitehouse Consultancy, said his organisation has always declared its client lists to avoid any risk of conflict of interest, and will make an entry into the register.



Whitehouse's clients include food and supplement industry players Ajinomoto, Atkins Nutritionals, and Holland and Barrett.



The register "will bring a breathe of fresh air", he said, and expressed hope that all agencies will declare their client lists.



The register will also asks lobbyists to disclose information on what their mission is and how they are funded, so that both policymakers and the general public "can assess the strength of the interests promoting a particular policy option".

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