As yet, it is not clear whether the Commission will announce changes to the lobby transparency register before the summer break or wait until September.
Officials from the Commission's Secretariat-General are in charge of drawing up conclusions from the review of the register's first year, incorporating stakeholder feedback. A central figure in this process is Jens Nymand Christensen, who told EurActiv that "contributions to the review reflect what we knew a year ago: some think we haven't gone far enough, and others think we've gone too far. We've tried to find the middle ground". Nymand Christensen's approach does not exactly bode well for the quality of the Commission's review.
While the input from stakeholder groups should clearly be considered, the Commission’s job is to make whatever changes necessary to ensure the transparency register fulfils its goals: securing visibility around who lobbies EU decision-makers, on whose behalf and with what financial means. Aiming for "the middle ground" between the positions of different lobby groups will not result in a quality outcome. Instead it leads to a lowest common denominator approach that effectively gives the anti-transparency lobbyists victory. A closer look at the contributions to the Commission's stakeholder consultation for the register review reveals why.
Comments have been sent in by eight groups, half of which are corporate lobbies, and the other half of which are public interest groups and coalitions. Transparency International, the Civil Society Contact Group, consumer lobby BEUC and ALTER-EU have called for mandatory registration, closing the loopholes in financial disclosure and adding the names of lobbyists to the register.
In stark contrast, EPACA and SEAP (on behalf of the for-profit lobby consultancies), the council of law firms as well as AmCham (US firms) all urge the Commission not to go beyond the current level of transparency. In its comments, EPACA warns that it "could produce a reversal in the trend of additional registrations, and some deregistration, if the Commission changed the ground rules on financial disclosure". This implicit threat of leaving the register is repeated at the end of EPACA’s text. In the light of the Commission's 'finding-the-middle-ground' approach, there is every reason to fear that EPACA's threats will make the Commission shy away from common sense improvements to the register.