Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Nolan Quigley, European officer, NCVO

What is happening in Europe that could affect voluntary organisations? Since the constitutional referenda in Holland and France last year, the EU has been going through a period of reflection. That means everything is now to play for in terms of the way the EU will develop in future - how it formulates policy, for example, and how it consults the voluntary sector.

What should the sector look out for? Two important consultations are going on. The first is a consultation on the Communications White Paper: the European Commission is looking at how it communicates with citizens and civil society, and with NGOs and voluntary sector organisations. It's seeking to reform the way it consults with various groups.

Why is this necessary? In the past, the EC hasn't been particularly good at consulting the sector - and if it does consult, it doesn't always give enough time.

What's the other consultation? It's on the Green Paper on transparency. It's looking at how NGOs can prove who they are when they are lobbying or campaigning at European level. This paper raises some potential pitfalls for voluntary organisations.

Why? There's a culture of wanting to regulate lobbyists in Brussels at the moment. It has the second-largest lobbying community in the world and, until now, has relied on self-regulation. The EC and other institutions are now keen on creating a sort of accreditation system. Our concern is they're not differentiating between corporate lobbyists and non-profit lobbyists.

What's the timetable for these consultations? We have until the end of August to respond to the Green Paper. The consultation on the Communications White Paper closes on 1 July.

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