Today 3,048 individuals are in possession of a Long-Term Badge (valid for one year) to enter the European Parliament. Together they represent 1,829 organisations(interest groups).

Beside the Long Term Pass, there is also an 'Express Badge'. Currently 1,104 individuals can enter the European Parliament through the Express Badge. What is it? Interest groups apply for an Express Badge by providing the names of their representatives who may visit the European Parliament. The Express Badge is only valid for a maximum 3 days per week. Once your name has been entered into the Express Badge List, you only need to show your ID to enter the European Parliament.

So if you add the holders of Long-term Badge to the number of individuals entering the premises under Express Badge, you have 4,152 individuals well below what the number of was  2 years ago of 4,800 individuals.  Now with the new rules being contemplated for lobbyists, even holders of a long term pass may have to register on a daily basis , even if they hold a one-year pass, in order to record with whom they are meeting or which meeting they are attending.

The trend is clearly to reduce the number of Long-Term Pass holders and this is cause for worry.  I don't see a problem in having lobbyists and the public make an appointment before trying to meet with any MEP. That's what we usually do anyway. It's a matter of simple courtesy and respecting the heavy schedule MEPs are under. Dropping by the office of an MEP without any prior appointment is not recommended because he/she may simply not be in his/her office at that time. This said, public access and involvement in the European Parliament should not sacrifice freedom. Citizens should have the right to visit the European Parliament and share with MEPs whatever is on their mind. Though everyone rails against lobbyists, let us remember that they represent people. I don't think we should restrict their access to lawmakers. We have strengths in number.... so join AALEP so collectively we can make our voice heard in the defense of citizens' right to enter their European Parliament and participate in the democratic process.      

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