“Germany did very poorly,” Daniel Freund of Transparency International told The Local. “The EU has a bit of trouble getting older member states to reform.”
Europe’s largest economy scored overall 23 percent for meeting international standards and best practices, behind Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Freund pointed to the German auto industry’s influence in domestic and EU car energy consumption labelling. Regulations were set up to take into consideration car weight, resulting in better ratings for often heavy German sports utility vehicles than lighter-weight Italian and French cars.
The report harshly criticizes Europe’s overall inability to control lobbying, stating that across the continent, “the revolving door is spinning out of control”.
“Across Europe, powerful individuals are largely able to move freely between the public and private sectors, leading to a potential political bias towards former employees, or an unfair advantage for certain interest groups – a phenomenon known as the ‘revolving door’”
“The report reveals that none of the countries assessed adequately control the revolving door, a key risk leading to undue influence on political decisions,” the report states.
Only seven of the 19 countries surveyed had regulations to rein in lobbying’s influence – Austria, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. Still, according to the report, most regulations are ineffective.
“Although lobbying is an important part of a healthy democracy, the lax rules mean that businesses and other special interests with lots of money and friends in the right places in cities like Brussels, Rome and Berlin can easily influence politicians and the law-making process in their country to put profits before people,” the report states.
The report ranked 19 countries as well as three European institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Researchers assessed how well the countries and institutions controlled excessive influence of lobbyists on political decisions, as well as the promotion of transparent and ethical practices.
Together, the institutions and countries scored 31 percent when measured against international lobbying standards and best practices.
Slovenia scored the highest at 55 percent, followed by Lithuania at 50 percent and the United Kingdom at 44 percent. Hungary and Cyprus were at the very bottom.
The anti-corruption group calls on EU institutions to adopt better lobbying regulations, such as establishing mandatory lobbyist registers where lobbyists must state who they represent, as well as publicly publishing a so-called “legislative footprint” that traces any outside input in legislation.
“Generally lobbyists are in favour of having lobbyist registers,” Freund told The Local. “It is a bit of a mystery why politicians haven’t followed through.”