Making information publicly available (e.g. EU Transparency Register) does not automatically make information useful. For transparency policy to be effective, the information must be both easy to understand and easy to utilize. Users must be able to register their choices clearly and disclosers must have the ability and incentive to respond meaningfully. Citizens need to know who is advocating for what and why and how.

The EC should provide a forum for lobbyists, citizens and other interested parties to come together to publicly and transparently debate proposed legislation, and in the process provide MEPS, journalists and the public access to the best available arguments, information and ideas about public policy- all in a way that easily searchable and sortable.  Separate pages would exist for each proposal introduced. Existing on-line forums have all developed innovative mechanisms to usefully aggregate information. In order to make the system more easily navigable, different types of participants would use the system in different ways.  

1. Registered Lobbyists

Registered lobbyists would be required to briefly state their client’s position on the EC proposal (or amendment or section of the proposal) and if they wish to provide a simple yes or no recommendation. The up and down votes would make it easy for anybody including MEPs to see who is for and who is opposed to particular policies. Lobbyists would be required to advertise whether they are representing NGOs, trade or business associations, corporations etc. Lobbyists would also have the opportunity to provide as many supporting documents and arguments as they like and they would update their pages as much as they like as new information becomes available (or they wish to respond to ongoing events).  

2. Citizens (Constituents)

The system would provide a systematic and central forum for citizens to register their opinions and for MEPs to tally and track citizens’ opinion. It would also allow citizens to see how their opinions compare to other citizens’ opinions. Citizens’ opinions would work similarly to lobbyists input but would be organized by member states and tallied accordingly.

3. MEPs

MEPs would be invited to post pages that make the case for a particular proposal, or amendment and provide useful information.

Those who wish to use the system to research lobbying efforts would be able to search by proposal. People would be able to see which organizations are opposed and which are in favour and each of these organizations would have a page outlining their arguments, providing relevant information and would have contact information should anyone wants to learn more. One would be able to see what citizens’ opinion is by member states, regions, and the entire EU. The system would be of immense help to MEPs who need to learn something  very quickly about an issue. MEPs are often scrambling to research issues. The system would help them do this more systematically.

The same goes for the media. Rather than just relying on the most visible or recent press releases, journalists would also have immediate access to a list of anybody who is interested in a particular issue, giving them more choices on who to interview and the ability to find a broader range of perspectives in a timely fashion.

The public and other interested parties would now see who is advocating for what, what their arguments are, and what information they are basing those arguments on. Rather than endless speculating about who is saying what behind closed doors, this would shift the public debate more to the actual arguments by making those actual arguments and facts more easily accessible and comparable.

Public interest groups who can’t afford hiring lobbyists and schedule meetings with every MEP would now have a more level playing field in which to compete. They also would be able to see what corporations are arguing and would more easily be able to respond to these allegations. Likewise, corporations would be able to respond to any unfounded allegations their critics might be spouting.

Lobbyists should welcome the opportunity to participate. By making what they do transparent, this system could help dispel popular myths and negative perceptions about lobbyists and potentially could improve their standing with the public by directing attention to the education and arguments parts of lobbying.

In order to become effective the system should become the standard conduct for lobbying. The most straightforward way would be to simply require that all lobbyists must participate. However, this might be politically difficult to enforce. A more likely way for the system to take hold would be for MEPs to signal that they will only seriously entertain lobbying that comes through the system. Once MEPs announce their intentions to use the system as their primary resource for learning about issues, lobbyists will have a clearer incentive to participate. Once some lobbyists start using the system, those on the other side of the issue will want to report to accusations. As the benefits of the system become clear, all lobbyists will adopt the system as their primary clearinghouse for public policy debate and discussion.

Certainly the implementation of this system will not and should not replace in-person meetings and phone calls and e-mails, nor is it designed to. In many ways, it has the potential to make in-person meetings more productive since EU officials would have more opportunities to brush up on current information and arguments in advance of those meetings.


The quality of public policy depends on many factors, but perhaps the most important of these is the quality of information and argument. All legislation is ultimately written by people making decisions based on their ideas and understandings about how the world works, how the world should work, and how to bridge that gap. Where they get information matters. The above proposed system would make it more likely that such information is balanced and transparent by providing a central clearinghouse at EU level where MEPs, staff, journalists, researchers or citizens could, at the few clicks of a mouse learn what different organized  groups, citizens and MEPs think about any piece of legislation or amendment- who supports it, who opposes and why.        


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