Oliver Wright: This has potential to erode democratic transparency

A company attempting to change Europe's laws might decide it did not want to be directly associated with the campaign
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The Independent Online

It was designed as a way of reconnecting Europe's citizens with its law-makers. But within days of the Citizens' Initiative coming into force it appears not to be the people of the Europe looking to take advantage of opportunity but corporate lobbyists.

Under the militaristic headline "A new tool in your public affairs armoury" Bell Pottinger's Brussels arm suggests the law could be an "exciting opportunity for businesses and campaign groups to directly influence EU policy".

It then offers to provide "professional support" guiding clients through the process of "devising and managing an initiative".

This is not only against the letter of the new initiative but also its spirit. And it has the potential to erode democratic transparency.

A campaign group or company attempting to change Europe's laws might well decide that it did not want to be directly associated with orchestrating such a campaign – and that is where a lobbyist could come in very useful.

They could run the campaign on behalf of a group which would blur the vested interests.

While it is fair to say that collecting a million signatures from at least seven EU countries is a formidable task – for even the most well-organised and well-funded lobbyists – there is a principle at stake.

The EU already has a problem with transparency. The fear is that unless officials move quickly to clamp down on this new "opportunity" for lobbyists, the EU's Citizens' Initiative could merely exacerbate it.