The number of think tanks in Europe has more than quadrupled in recent years (an estimated 1,200) and they have become more active and inventive at disseminating solutions to decision-makers. Leading think tanks in Brussels include the Bertelsman Stiftung, the Brussels European and Global Economic Laboratory (Bruegel), the Center for European Studies (CEPS), the Egmont Institute, the European Policy Centre (EPC), the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), Madriaga-College of Europe Foundation, Notre Europe and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWPI).

The European Policy Institute Network (EPIN) is a network of dynamic think tanks and policy institutes focusing on current EU and European political and policy debates. The  network counts 32 members in 25 countries, including almost all the EU member states and candidate countries. EPIN aims to contribute to the debate on the Future of Europe through up to the minute, expert analysis and commentary and through providing easy access to understanding the different national debates .

There are a variety of think tanks: Academic Think Tanks, Contract Researchers, Advocacy Think Tanks, Political Party Think Tanks. Generally speaking Think Tanks examine issues, sometimes provide opinions on policy decisions, they organize open debates in certain issues about which everyone can have their say. Some are neutral and some have strong political beliefs. They get money to operate from foundations, individuals, corporations and even from the European Commission.

Some Think Tank experts not only do research on issues: They also develop proposals for legislation and then try to gain support for them. They meet with EU officials and say "Here is what we found and here is what you should do". Very few Think Tanks separate research and activism and hence this can be a source of possible conflicts for organisations doing both activities. In a traditional Think Tank, policy experts study problems and decide what the solutions should be but then you also will find those who try to gain support for their ideas in EU circles and the media, in effect they become lobbyists.

Although the original scheme of  the European Commission comprised 'all activities carried out with the objective of influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of the European institutions' the problem has been that Think Tanks have opposed the view that they should be considered as lobbyists or interest representatives which they claim they clearly are not so.

By calling the new Joint Register EP-EC the  'Transparency Register', the hope is that Think Tanks will have no problem in voluntarily registering and make public the details of their financial resources. 

This said:

" Any attempt to influence legislation through an attempt to effect the opinions of the general public or any segment thereof and

"Any attempt to influence any legislation through communication with any member or employee of a legislative body or with any government official or employee who may participate in the formulation of legislation "

is Lobbying.

However, the following activities are NOT considered Lobbying:

(A) making available the results of nonpartisan analysis, study, or research;
(B) providing of technical advice or assistance to a governmental body or to a committee or other subdivision thereof in response to a written request by such body or subdivision, as the case may be;
(C) communications between the organization and its bona fide members with respect to legislation or proposed legislation of direct interest to the organization and such members.

In  the new Transparency Register, no such distinction will apply.






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