A lobbyist is a person who works to influence political and administrative decisions. The word comes from "Lobby" - an entrance area or a hall in a Parliament where lobbyists can meet politicians.
According to an EU code dating from 1994, lobbyists should identify themselves carefully, inform people of their interests and not misuse their connections with the EU institutions, respect confidential information, abstain from giving false information and selling official documents, avoid professional conflicts and not pay people employed by the EU institutions.
Since 1996, the European Parliament has had its own rules for lobbyists that have to be respected if the lobbyist wishes to have access to EP buildings. There is no official register of all EU lobbyists working in Brussels.
In 2008 it was estimated that there are between 15,000 - 20,000 of them, compared to 35,000 in Washington. 4,570 were registered in the European Parliament.
There are 2,600 estimated number of interest groups established in Brussels, 70 % representing corporate interests, 20 % regions, cities and international institutions and 10 % NGO`s.
The European Commission has established a voluntary register for lobbyism instead of the mandatory registers that have been introduced in the US and Canada. The Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a mandatory system when he was elected in 2014.
By October 2009, 2092 lobbyists had registered in the voluntary register. Commission Vice President Siim Kallas ruled out that he would propose a mandatory register during the foreseen review by June 2009.
In the EU, most lobbyists are commercial lobbyists, representing firms and economic organisations, whereas half the lobbyists in Washington, USA, represent non-economic interest organisations.
The lobbyists have their own organisations to lobby their general interests. "The Sociaty of European Affairs Professionals" - SEAP, established in 1997. "The European Public Affairs Consultancies`Association" - EPACA, founded in 2005. "The European Association of Political Consultants" - EAPC, established in 1996.
"Alter EU" is an "Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation" working for stricter legislation on lobbyism.
See also Transparency