Skip to main content
WP_Query Object ( [query] => Array ( [name] => transparency-european-affairs-seap [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog ) [query_vars] => Array ( [name] => transparency-european-affairs-seap [post_type] => resources [resource-type] => blog [error] => [m] => [p] => 0 [post_parent] => [subpost] => [subpost_id] => [attachment] => [attachment_id] => 0 [pagename] => [page_id] => 0 [second] => [minute] => [hour] => [day] => 0 [monthnum] => 0 [year] => 0 [w] => 0 [category_name] => [tag] => [cat] => [tag_id] => [author] => [author_name] => [feed] => [tb] => [paged] => 0 [meta_key] => [meta_value] => [preview] => [s] => [sentence] => [title] => [fields] => [menu_order] => [embed] => [category__in] => Array ( ) [category__not_in] => Array ( ) [category__and] => Array ( ) [post__in] => Array ( ) [post__not_in] => Array ( ) [post_name__in] => Array ( ) [tag__in] => Array ( ) [tag__not_in] => Array ( ) [tag__and] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__in] => Array ( ) [tag_slug__and] => Array ( ) [post_parent__in] => Array ( ) [post_parent__not_in] => Array ( ) [author__in] => Array ( ) [author__not_in] => Array ( ) [search_columns] => Array ( ) [ignore_sticky_posts] => [suppress_filters] => [cache_results] => 1 [update_post_term_cache] => 1 [update_menu_item_cache] => [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1 [update_post_meta_cache] => 1 [posts_per_page] => 10 [nopaging] => [comments_per_page] => 50 [no_found_rows] => [order] => DESC ) [tax_query] => [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object ( [queries] => Array ( ) [relation] => [meta_table] => [meta_id_column] => [primary_table] => [primary_id_column] => [table_aliases:protected] => Array ( ) [clauses:protected] => Array ( ) [has_or_relation:protected] => ) [date_query] => [queried_object] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7886 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content] => “Back in 1997, there was no EU Transparency Register and, mostly, no code of conduct. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a Wild West environment, but there were no specific rules for lobbying aside from criminal law.” Paul Varakas paints a picture of how lobbying in Brussels used to look prior to the creation of the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) — and it’s safe to say that it’s a different story from what we know today. As President of SEAP, Varakas spearheads the association’s efforts to drive strict standards for the European affairs profession through self-regulation. But when it comes to the integrity and reputation of lobbyists, he is emphatic that more can and should be done — and not only by the lobbyists themselves. Read on for Varakas’s best practices and recommendations to improve transparency across the European affairs industry — and learn why he thinks European institutions should take a tougher approach.

Transparency Obligations: A Shared Responsibility?

Guided by the values of integrity, transparency, accuracy, and trust, SEAP has played a key role in rebuilding perceptions of the European affairs profession — notably by promoting transparency practices for lobbyists, as well as instilling a rigorous code of conduct for its members with procedures for non-compliance. “SEAP was established to show that lobbying can be done ethically — and when it is done that way, it has a justification to remain as part of the democratic process,” said Varakas. But Varakas notes that the responsibility to uphold transparency standards is not always evenly shared between participants in the democratic process. “A lot is done at the level of the lobbyists — in the sense that most rules apply to the lobbyists themselves, and not necessarily to those receiving them,” said Varakas.

The Role of European Institutions in Improving Transparency

As such, Varakas sees opportunities for the European institutions to shed light on the meetings held behind closed doors. While transparency guidelines are in place, they are far from being watertight — with one notable pitfall being timings around disclosure. “If you look at the European Parliament, for example, there is mandatory disclosure for chairs of the committees, or rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs,” explained Varakas. “They have to mention which lobbies, associations, or organisations they have met with. But this is either not done, or done with such delay that it is a bit useless — meaning long after the file has passed, so we can only verify after the fact.” Varakas points to better enforcement as a way to enhance transparency, suggesting stricter consequences for policymakers who fail to respect disclosure practices. “To enforce, you either use the carrot or the stick,” said Varakas. “As for the ‘stick’ — and I’m just putting it out there — from a Parliament perspective, if you’re a rapporteur and you’re not disclosing your meetings properly, you should not get a rapporteur file in the future, for example.”

Data: An Under-utilised Resource

[callout align="left" heading="Discover how EFPIA keeps a strategic overview of meetings with European officials." button_text="Read the Case Study" button_link="https://www.quorum.us/case-studies/efpia-keep-pulse-meetings-eu-officials/"]A common response in the transparency conversation is that stricter obligations are too time-consuming to be practicable. But for Varakas, there are untapped opportunities for digitalisation and data to bridge the gap and remove burdens from the disclosure process. “The current standards don’t properly reflect the digitalisation of the profession — and I'm not talking about Twitter or social media,” said Varakas. “I'm talking about the fact that we have data that is being generated by lobbies in general — for example, how many times do stakeholders scan their badges to enter the European Parliament? That kind of data exists and would be very interesting for academics and professionals.”

Best Practices for Transparency in Public Affairs

With all this in mind, how can public affairs professionals continue to take the lead when it comes to transparency? Varakas points to three key tips.

1) Provide Accurate, Representative Data

Varakas emphasises the importance of providing accurate data to the Transparency Register as a foundational step. He warns against downplaying the amount of money spent on lobbying activities, adding that any perceived untruthful disclosures could have severe reputational impacts.

2) Go Above and Beyond

There are a number of ways that lobbyists can go beyond what is strictly required by the Transparency Register. Taking the example of trade associations, Varakas suggests that organisations provide an indication of membership fees by disclosing their largest and smallest contributors — or, alternatively, they could publish the rules of their statute with regards to members’ voting rights. Both methods allow outsiders to understand which voices hold the most weight in a lobbying setting.

3) Apply a Code of Conduct

Varakas encourages lobbyists to always hold themselves to the highest behavioural standards — and recommends crystallising the guidelines into a code of conduct to ensure accountability across teams.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Varakas sees significant opportunities to build on SEAP’s existing work in transparency — by tightening up enforcement on both sides of the table, and by tapping into data to facilitate the disclosure process. But how would he summarise his advice for European affairs professionals? “If you're not doing transparency right, you're going to be caught. Simple as that!” [post_title] => More Can Still Be Done for Transparency in European Affairs — Best Practices from SEAP [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => transparency-european-affairs-seap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7886 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 7886 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'transparency-european-affairs-seap' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7886 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content] => “Back in 1997, there was no EU Transparency Register and, mostly, no code of conduct. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a Wild West environment, but there were no specific rules for lobbying aside from criminal law.” Paul Varakas paints a picture of how lobbying in Brussels used to look prior to the creation of the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) — and it’s safe to say that it’s a different story from what we know today. As President of SEAP, Varakas spearheads the association’s efforts to drive strict standards for the European affairs profession through self-regulation. But when it comes to the integrity and reputation of lobbyists, he is emphatic that more can and should be done — and not only by the lobbyists themselves. Read on for Varakas’s best practices and recommendations to improve transparency across the European affairs industry — and learn why he thinks European institutions should take a tougher approach.

Transparency Obligations: A Shared Responsibility?

Guided by the values of integrity, transparency, accuracy, and trust, SEAP has played a key role in rebuilding perceptions of the European affairs profession — notably by promoting transparency practices for lobbyists, as well as instilling a rigorous code of conduct for its members with procedures for non-compliance. “SEAP was established to show that lobbying can be done ethically — and when it is done that way, it has a justification to remain as part of the democratic process,” said Varakas. But Varakas notes that the responsibility to uphold transparency standards is not always evenly shared between participants in the democratic process. “A lot is done at the level of the lobbyists — in the sense that most rules apply to the lobbyists themselves, and not necessarily to those receiving them,” said Varakas.

The Role of European Institutions in Improving Transparency

As such, Varakas sees opportunities for the European institutions to shed light on the meetings held behind closed doors. While transparency guidelines are in place, they are far from being watertight — with one notable pitfall being timings around disclosure. “If you look at the European Parliament, for example, there is mandatory disclosure for chairs of the committees, or rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs,” explained Varakas. “They have to mention which lobbies, associations, or organisations they have met with. But this is either not done, or done with such delay that it is a bit useless — meaning long after the file has passed, so we can only verify after the fact.” Varakas points to better enforcement as a way to enhance transparency, suggesting stricter consequences for policymakers who fail to respect disclosure practices. “To enforce, you either use the carrot or the stick,” said Varakas. “As for the ‘stick’ — and I’m just putting it out there — from a Parliament perspective, if you’re a rapporteur and you’re not disclosing your meetings properly, you should not get a rapporteur file in the future, for example.”

Data: An Under-utilised Resource

[callout align="left" heading="Discover how EFPIA keeps a strategic overview of meetings with European officials." button_text="Read the Case Study" button_link="https://www.quorum.us/case-studies/efpia-keep-pulse-meetings-eu-officials/"]A common response in the transparency conversation is that stricter obligations are too time-consuming to be practicable. But for Varakas, there are untapped opportunities for digitalisation and data to bridge the gap and remove burdens from the disclosure process. “The current standards don’t properly reflect the digitalisation of the profession — and I'm not talking about Twitter or social media,” said Varakas. “I'm talking about the fact that we have data that is being generated by lobbies in general — for example, how many times do stakeholders scan their badges to enter the European Parliament? That kind of data exists and would be very interesting for academics and professionals.”

Best Practices for Transparency in Public Affairs

With all this in mind, how can public affairs professionals continue to take the lead when it comes to transparency? Varakas points to three key tips.

1) Provide Accurate, Representative Data

Varakas emphasises the importance of providing accurate data to the Transparency Register as a foundational step. He warns against downplaying the amount of money spent on lobbying activities, adding that any perceived untruthful disclosures could have severe reputational impacts.

2) Go Above and Beyond

There are a number of ways that lobbyists can go beyond what is strictly required by the Transparency Register. Taking the example of trade associations, Varakas suggests that organisations provide an indication of membership fees by disclosing their largest and smallest contributors — or, alternatively, they could publish the rules of their statute with regards to members’ voting rights. Both methods allow outsiders to understand which voices hold the most weight in a lobbying setting.

3) Apply a Code of Conduct

Varakas encourages lobbyists to always hold themselves to the highest behavioural standards — and recommends crystallising the guidelines into a code of conduct to ensure accountability across teams.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Varakas sees significant opportunities to build on SEAP’s existing work in transparency — by tightening up enforcement on both sides of the table, and by tapping into data to facilitate the disclosure process. But how would he summarise his advice for European affairs professionals? “If you're not doing transparency right, you're going to be caught. Simple as that!” [post_title] => More Can Still Be Done for Transparency in European Affairs — Best Practices from SEAP [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => transparency-european-affairs-seap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7886 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7886 [post_author] => 28 [post_date] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content] => “Back in 1997, there was no EU Transparency Register and, mostly, no code of conduct. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a Wild West environment, but there were no specific rules for lobbying aside from criminal law.” Paul Varakas paints a picture of how lobbying in Brussels used to look prior to the creation of the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) — and it’s safe to say that it’s a different story from what we know today. As President of SEAP, Varakas spearheads the association’s efforts to drive strict standards for the European affairs profession through self-regulation. But when it comes to the integrity and reputation of lobbyists, he is emphatic that more can and should be done — and not only by the lobbyists themselves. Read on for Varakas’s best practices and recommendations to improve transparency across the European affairs industry — and learn why he thinks European institutions should take a tougher approach.

Transparency Obligations: A Shared Responsibility?

Guided by the values of integrity, transparency, accuracy, and trust, SEAP has played a key role in rebuilding perceptions of the European affairs profession — notably by promoting transparency practices for lobbyists, as well as instilling a rigorous code of conduct for its members with procedures for non-compliance. “SEAP was established to show that lobbying can be done ethically — and when it is done that way, it has a justification to remain as part of the democratic process,” said Varakas. But Varakas notes that the responsibility to uphold transparency standards is not always evenly shared between participants in the democratic process. “A lot is done at the level of the lobbyists — in the sense that most rules apply to the lobbyists themselves, and not necessarily to those receiving them,” said Varakas.

The Role of European Institutions in Improving Transparency

As such, Varakas sees opportunities for the European institutions to shed light on the meetings held behind closed doors. While transparency guidelines are in place, they are far from being watertight — with one notable pitfall being timings around disclosure. “If you look at the European Parliament, for example, there is mandatory disclosure for chairs of the committees, or rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs,” explained Varakas. “They have to mention which lobbies, associations, or organisations they have met with. But this is either not done, or done with such delay that it is a bit useless — meaning long after the file has passed, so we can only verify after the fact.” Varakas points to better enforcement as a way to enhance transparency, suggesting stricter consequences for policymakers who fail to respect disclosure practices. “To enforce, you either use the carrot or the stick,” said Varakas. “As for the ‘stick’ — and I’m just putting it out there — from a Parliament perspective, if you’re a rapporteur and you’re not disclosing your meetings properly, you should not get a rapporteur file in the future, for example.”

Data: An Under-utilised Resource

[callout align="left" heading="Discover how EFPIA keeps a strategic overview of meetings with European officials." button_text="Read the Case Study" button_link="https://www.quorum.us/case-studies/efpia-keep-pulse-meetings-eu-officials/"]A common response in the transparency conversation is that stricter obligations are too time-consuming to be practicable. But for Varakas, there are untapped opportunities for digitalisation and data to bridge the gap and remove burdens from the disclosure process. “The current standards don’t properly reflect the digitalisation of the profession — and I'm not talking about Twitter or social media,” said Varakas. “I'm talking about the fact that we have data that is being generated by lobbies in general — for example, how many times do stakeholders scan their badges to enter the European Parliament? That kind of data exists and would be very interesting for academics and professionals.”

Best Practices for Transparency in Public Affairs

With all this in mind, how can public affairs professionals continue to take the lead when it comes to transparency? Varakas points to three key tips.

1) Provide Accurate, Representative Data

Varakas emphasises the importance of providing accurate data to the Transparency Register as a foundational step. He warns against downplaying the amount of money spent on lobbying activities, adding that any perceived untruthful disclosures could have severe reputational impacts.

2) Go Above and Beyond

There are a number of ways that lobbyists can go beyond what is strictly required by the Transparency Register. Taking the example of trade associations, Varakas suggests that organisations provide an indication of membership fees by disclosing their largest and smallest contributors — or, alternatively, they could publish the rules of their statute with regards to members’ voting rights. Both methods allow outsiders to understand which voices hold the most weight in a lobbying setting.

3) Apply a Code of Conduct

Varakas encourages lobbyists to always hold themselves to the highest behavioural standards — and recommends crystallising the guidelines into a code of conduct to ensure accountability across teams.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Varakas sees significant opportunities to build on SEAP’s existing work in transparency — by tightening up enforcement on both sides of the table, and by tapping into data to facilitate the disclosure process. But how would he summarise his advice for European affairs professionals? “If you're not doing transparency right, you're going to be caught. Simple as that!” [post_title] => More Can Still Be Done for Transparency in European Affairs — Best Practices from SEAP [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => transparency-european-affairs-seap [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2022-12-07 10:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=7886 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 428168bbb6f93dbc19d4ffcc9aadc464 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [allow_query_attachment_by_filename:protected] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
!!! 7886
Blog

More Can Still Be Done for Transparency in European Affairs — Best Practices from SEAP

More Can Still Be Done for Transparency in European Affairs — Best Practices from SEAP

“Back in 1997, there was no EU Transparency Register and, mostly, no code of conduct. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a Wild West environment, but there were no specific rules for lobbying aside from criminal law.”

Paul Varakas paints a picture of how lobbying in Brussels used to look prior to the creation of the Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP) — and it’s safe to say that it’s a different story from what we know today. As President of SEAP, Varakas spearheads the association’s efforts to drive strict standards for the European affairs profession through self-regulation. But when it comes to the integrity and reputation of lobbyists, he is emphatic that more can and should be done — and not only by the lobbyists themselves.

Read on for Varakas’s best practices and recommendations to improve transparency across the European affairs industry — and learn why he thinks European institutions should take a tougher approach.

Transparency Obligations: A Shared Responsibility?

Guided by the values of integrity, transparency, accuracy, and trust, SEAP has played a key role in rebuilding perceptions of the European affairs profession — notably by promoting transparency practices for lobbyists, as well as instilling a rigorous code of conduct for its members with procedures for non-compliance.

“SEAP was established to show that lobbying can be done ethically — and when it is done that way, it has a justification to remain as part of the democratic process,” said Varakas.

But Varakas notes that the responsibility to uphold transparency standards is not always evenly shared between participants in the democratic process.

“A lot is done at the level of the lobbyists — in the sense that most rules apply to the lobbyists themselves, and not necessarily to those receiving them,” said Varakas.

The Role of European Institutions in Improving Transparency

As such, Varakas sees opportunities for the European institutions to shed light on the meetings held behind closed doors. While transparency guidelines are in place, they are far from being watertight — with one notable pitfall being timings around disclosure.

“If you look at the European Parliament, for example, there is mandatory disclosure for chairs of the committees, or rapporteurs and shadow rapporteurs,” explained Varakas. “They have to mention which lobbies, associations, or organisations they have met with. But this is either not done, or done with such delay that it is a bit useless — meaning long after the file has passed, so we can only verify after the fact.”

Varakas points to better enforcement as a way to enhance transparency, suggesting stricter consequences for policymakers who fail to respect disclosure practices.

“To enforce, you either use the carrot or the stick,” said Varakas. “As for the ‘stick’ — and I’m just putting it out there — from a Parliament perspective, if you’re a rapporteur and you’re not disclosing your meetings properly, you should not get a rapporteur file in the future, for example.”

Data: An Under-utilised Resource

A common response in the transparency conversation is that stricter obligations are too time-consuming to be practicable. But for Varakas, there are untapped opportunities for digitalisation and data to bridge the gap and remove burdens from the disclosure process.

“The current standards don’t properly reflect the digitalisation of the profession — and I’m not talking about Twitter or social media,” said Varakas. “I’m talking about the fact that we have data that is being generated by lobbies in general — for example, how many times do stakeholders scan their badges to enter the European Parliament? That kind of data exists and would be very interesting for academics and professionals.”

Best Practices for Transparency in Public Affairs

With all this in mind, how can public affairs professionals continue to take the lead when it comes to transparency? Varakas points to three key tips.

1) Provide Accurate, Representative Data

Varakas emphasises the importance of providing accurate data to the Transparency Register as a foundational step. He warns against downplaying the amount of money spent on lobbying activities, adding that any perceived untruthful disclosures could have severe reputational impacts.

2) Go Above and Beyond

There are a number of ways that lobbyists can go beyond what is strictly required by the Transparency Register. Taking the example of trade associations, Varakas suggests that organisations provide an indication of membership fees by disclosing their largest and smallest contributors — or, alternatively, they could publish the rules of their statute with regards to members’ voting rights. Both methods allow outsiders to understand which voices hold the most weight in a lobbying setting.

3) Apply a Code of Conduct

Varakas encourages lobbyists to always hold themselves to the highest behavioural standards — and recommends crystallising the guidelines into a code of conduct to ensure accountability across teams.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that Varakas sees significant opportunities to build on SEAP’s existing work in transparency — by tightening up enforcement on both sides of the table, and by tapping into data to facilitate the disclosure process. But how would he summarise his advice for European affairs professionals?

“If you’re not doing transparency right, you’re going to be caught. Simple as that!”

CALL FOR INTEREST: INTERVIEW SERIES

Are you a leading voice in the Brussels Bubble? We’d love to chat! Get in touch to learn more about our new interview series.