Brussels, 21 March 2011 – EPACA stands for an ethical and irreproachable approach to lobbying.
The behaviour revealed by the Sunday Times investigation, if replicated by a real lobbyist, would clearly be a severe violation of the EPACA Code of Conduct: offering financial inducement is just as immoral and reprehensible as it is to accept it. EPACA’s code of conduct specifically states that our members abide by the following:
- neither directly nor indirectly offer nor give any financial inducement to any EU official, nor Member of the European Parliament, nor their staff;
- neither propose nor undertake any action which would constitute an improper influence on them;
- only employ EU personnel subject to the rules and confidentiality requirements of the EU institutions;
EPACA has been a very strong supporter of efforts by the European Commission and the European Parliament to make sure that the functioning of those institutions and their interactions with all external stakeholders are transparent.
For the most part, those efforts have focused on the rules governing the conduct of lobbyists. This case reveals the need to focus also on the rules and standards of behaviour applying to those inside the EU institutions. Although very few MEPs were tempted by the sting, it only takes one to ruin the reputation of the good work of all the rest, and the responsible, ethical lobbyists they interact with every day.
We note the Sunday Times case has to do with a fake lobbyist – not a real one. Ethical, transparent lobbying is an important part of policy development in a democracy. It provides policymakers with the views of affected interests including NGOs, industry, and the groups that represent collective interests. This allows policy makers to make their own informed decisions, after having consulted all interested parties.
The European Parliament, as the only body directly elected by all EU citizens, plays an important role as a forum for debate and discussion about the costs and benefits for all affected interests on a wide range of EU proposals. Any steps taken as a result of this case should focus on ensuring ethical behaviour whilst preserving the quality of the dialogue with legitimate, ethical stakeholders.