In the face of the corruption scandal that has hit the European Parliament, AALEP (The Association of Accredited Lobbyists to the European Union) stands ready to cooperate with the European Parliament for establishing the highest standards of integrity between professional lobbyists and MEPs. It's realistic to put restrictions and obligations on elected officials or government officials because they do work for the public and they are accountable for the public. It's much harder to put restrictions on private sector or non-profit. Politicians and bureaucrats  should be compelled to disclose where they are receiving resources, what investments they have made, where their family members work so as to make certain that their family members, spouse, children are not working for an interest group or an industry that is trying to influence them. The more disclosure of those kind of things, the more information the public will have, the more it will be able to judge whether the policy makers and politicians are acting in the public interest or acting in self-interest.  What is clearly needed is more and more transparency, more and more disclosure and more and more accountability. Now turning to lobbyists: Professional lobbyists perform a critically important role in helping citizens communicate factual information and in advocating their interests and concerns to public officials.Regrettably, a widepread misperception exists today about what lobbying involves and what lobbyists do. The activities of a few MEPs severely damage the vast majority of lobbying professionals who peform their role in democracy in an ethical and totally legitimate way. We should not allow the actions of a few MEPs to paint our entire profession as corrupt individuals who will stop at nothing to have their way with MEPs. The European Parliament is not 'corrupt'. Lobbyists are not 'bribing' people. Like any profession we have bad apples. No matter what rules we put in place, there will be always those who choose to break them. Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of the democratic process. European Parliament decisions affect both people and organisations, and information must be provided in order to produce informed decisions. MEPs cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored in order to produce equitable policies. Effective lobbying is not about access or money. It's about forthright, ethical communications on issues that impact the livelihood of legitimate businesses and citizens. Its principal elements include research and analysis on legislation or proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and educating not only government officials but also employees and corporate officers on the implication of various changes. Before any reforms are enacted, we would urge the European Parliament to not allow the egregious actions of a few provoke a knee-jerk reaction that may result in more damage to the system. You cannot curb the greed of a person only regulate what they can do. And if you regulate too much, that could be the downfall. The critical need is a system that will catch those who break the law and, just as importantly, protect and support those- at all levels of the legislative process- who respect the rules and abide by them. The European Parliament cannot legislate values. Before we rush to judgement on an entire profession, we need to step back, take a closer look at just what happened and realistically evaluate the current rules in place governing both the lobbied and the lobbyists. If we do this, we will find that overall the system does work. Certianly, it's not perfect, but it is a system more in need of improvement and enhancement than total overall. We need a better and easier way for the public to gain access to information on what both MEPs and lobbyists do. If the European Parliament can step back and look at this issue objectively, we can improve the system and provide a solution that EU citizens will come to truly appreciate and understand.  

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