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Lobbying the European Commission: Open or secret?


  • Raj Chari

    () (Political Science, Trinity College Dublin and IMDEA Social Sciences)

  • Daniel Hillebrand O'Donovan

    (Department Trinity College Dublin)


Little transparency in the EU black‐box of policy making means that there is limited citizen knowledge of which interest groups are operating in Brussels, what they seek to influence, how much resources they put into lobbying and the impact this has had on EU’s already large democratic deficit. As such, mass publics have held few tools to better understand, and get involved in changing, EU politics. In order to combat this problem, observers have considered the need to pursue 'sunshine' laws, a significant one being the regulation of lobbying. With this in mind, this paper asks: what has the Commission done with regard to regulating lobbyists and how does this compare from an international perspective; what insights can be gained about how the Commission register has evolved and the actors involved in policy making; and what lessons can be learned from this experience and is it really an antidote for the lack of genuine popular involvement in EU policy making? To answer these questions, there are three main sections. The first examines what is meant by the term 'lobbying regulation' and, from a comparative international perspective, it analyzes the Commission's attempts to increase transparency through its establishment of its 'voluntary' register in June 2008. The second considers the evolution of the register since its establishment, offering a novel, yet simple, analysis of the register's statistics between June 2008 and October 2010, focusing on registrations by consultancies, law firms, in‐house corporate lobbies, NGOs and others. It also considers registration dynamics in one of the most significant and globalized sectors in the economy, namely the automobile sector. The third section closes with lessons to be learned from a comparative perspective and ponders the structural changes that may be considered by the Commission in order to establish genuine popular involvement in EU policy making.

Suggested Citation

  • Raj Chari & Daniel Hillebrand O'Donovan, 2011. "Lobbying the European Commission: Open or secret?," Working Papers 2011-11, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  • Handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2011-11
    Note: This paper is included in the IMDEA Social Sciences Working Paper Series through the Institute's Visiting Researchers Programme

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Stasavage, 2003. "Transparency, Democratic Accountability, and the Economic Consequences of Monetary Institutions," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 47(3), pages 389-402, July.
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    European Commission; lobbying regulation; register of lobbyists; transparency; automobile sector;

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