Are all EU citizens equal?

Passes for lobbyists are an Orwellian development and should be withdrawn.

For many years the European Commission has operated a voluntary register in which political consultants, political lobbyists, campaign groups and public affairs advisors are able to register their staff, their clients and, by order of magnitude, their fees for engaging with the institutions of the European Union.

The European Parliament has now called for proposals to be brought forward by the end of 2016 to make it compulsory for “lobbyists” to participate in the Register. The Whitehouse Consultancy would support such a move, but we feel it should go further.

At Whitehouse we already participate in that voluntary EU register of political lobbyists as well as with the register maintained by our professional body, the Association of Professional Political Consultants. Since the company was launched in 1998 we have always been open and transparent about who our clients are and who our staff are. We will continue to adopt the highest possible standards when it comes to ethical behaviour.

The problem with the EU Register, though, is that it is not comprehensive. It should include all lawyers, business advisors, trades unions, trade associations and campaign groups who lobby the institutions of the Europe Union as well as multi-client public affairs consultancies such as Whitehouse.

It is also quite wrong that as an incentive to register, organisations are being offered security passes to facilitate access to the European Parliament and the European Commission as well as promises of easier access to information. When it comes to access to institutions and information, there should be one rule for all the citizens of Europe, regardless of whether or not they are “registered”; or we risk a situation in which all EU citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others, as George Orwell would have said. Such passes for lobbyists should be withdrawn.

Chris Whitehouse