NCVO concern at plans to limit European lobbying

The NCVO has warned the European Commission against introducing proposals that would restrict national NGOs from lobbying against its directives.

The commission's green paper on European transparency suggests implementing an accreditation scheme. If agreed, charities could find it difficult to gain access to the commission's building and would need to lobby through an accredited source, such as a larger Europe-based body with different priorities.

"Accreditation of lobbyists must be approached with extreme caution," Nolan Quigley, European and international officer at the NCVO, warned in the umbrella body's response to the green paper consultation.

The NCVO fears the commission may adopt the system introduced by the European Parliament, which accredits only lobbyists attending Parliament at least 50 times a year (Third Sector, 6 July 2005).

"This penalises NGOs and smaller charities because of the budgetary constraints of travelling to Brussels or Strasbourg," Quigley said.

The umbrella body is also concerned lobbyists could be restricted from operating on the grounds that they don't receive European Union funding.

"The right of an NGO to lobby the European Commission must never be based on that organisation being a recipient of EU funds," said Quigley. "It is of deep concern that this is brought into question."

All European legislation originates at the European Commission. Sarah Isal, director of the UK Race in Europe Network of more than 100 voluntary sector race relations groups, said lobbying at a European level was important because it could help induce changes in national policy. "There's a lot to be gained from policies and legislation developed there," she said.

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