Bar Council to register its Brussels lobbying with European Transparency Initiative

The Bar Council is to register its Brussels-based lobbying activities with the European Commission’s European Transparency Initiative (ETI). Established in 2008, the ETI is designed to promote transparency and ethical conduct in the representation of interests to the European Commission and other institutions of the European Union.

Under the ETI the Bar Council will disclose details of its representational activity in Brussels and, through its consultant director, will abide by a code of conduct. The Bar Council maintains a representative office in Brussels in premises which are shared with other European professional bodies representing other bar associations and law societies. The Bar’s Brussels office monitors developments at the EU institutions and makes representations to them regularly on behalf of the Bar of England and Wales and in the public interest. While registration under the ETI register is currently voluntary, the European Commission has made it clear that it expects representative organisations to register and, if they do not, it will treat their representations with the same weight as any individual contribution. The activities of the Bar’s Specialist Bar Associations may also be covered by the ETI and the Bar Council has drawn the attention of those organisations to the desirability of registration.

In-house counsel and members of the self-employed Bar, whose client work might involve them in representing sectoral interests, are also being advised about the ETI. However, the ETI is not intended to cover legal and other professional advice, in so far as it relates to the exercise of the fundamental right to a fair trial of a client including the right of defence in administrative proceedings. Activities which
are incidental to the provision of legal advice are also understood to fall outside the scope of the ETI.

On the eve of his visit to Brussels, for meetings with Baroness Ashton (Commissioner for Trade) and Meglena Kuneva (Commissioner for Consumer Protection) as well as with other senior officials and members of the English Bar based in Brussels, Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

‘The Bar Council conducts a wide range of representational activity in Brussels in the interests of better law-making. Many issues, from contract law to matrimonial property law and the framework of the justice system, are becoming much more strongly influenced by policy and legislation originating from the EU institutions. It is vital that the Bar of England and Wales helps to shape EU policies and laws in the interests of justice, drawing on the distinctive strengths of English law and procedure. This is not only in our national interest but in the wider EU interest. Our registration also underlines the extent to which the Bar Council can help formulate public policy and influence the decision-making processes of the European institutions. We are absolutely determined in our commitment to transparent and ethical conduct in our lobbying.’