In an article on the Viennese online news portal, www.vienna.at, Julia Herr, Austrian Social Democratic Party candidate for the European parliament election, was recently quoted, that there were supposedly „between 25.000 to 30.000 lobbyists“ working in Brussels. According to the article, Herr had made this claim on March 5th, 2019 during a discussion on the EU parliament elections. We rate her claim as „mostly true“.
It seems easy at first to get the number of all lobbyists working in Brussels. There is an official register for lobbyists who hold relations with the European Commission and the European Parliament. The Council of the European Union, however, has an „observer“ status, meaning lobbyists influencing members of the Council do not have to register.
Exact number of lobbyists unknown
The register lists full-time equivalents but no absolute numbers. As for her primary source ,Julia Herr’s spokesperson refers to the German NGO „LobbyControl“, an organization dedicated to being „politically neutral“. LobbyControl claims to be non-profit. In a press statement in January 2019, LobbyControl published the number of „30.000 lobbyists“ working in Brussels. Asked for its source, a LobbyControl board members says that the number stems from Transparency International (TI) and is also based on the EU’s lobby register.
LobbyControl is part of the pan-european alliance called „Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation“, short ALTER-EU. On its website, the organization once claims that there are „25.000 to 30.000“, then it is stated however that „15.000 to 25.000“ lobbyists are working in Brussels. Olivier Hoedeman, member of the executive committee, names Transparency International as a primary source as well. An inquiry to TI has not been answered until the publication date.
Hoedeman of ALTER-EU explains why in his opinion the higher number is more realistic: ALTER-EU estimates that each of the 11.832 organizations of the lobby register has at least two employees. That would make a total of 23.646 lobbyists. This number roughly corresponds with Julia Herr’s, the Austrian Social Democratic Party candidate’s claim.
Data is hard to get
Julia Herr’s claim includes another „fact“: According to her, the entire budget of all lobbyists is „1,15 billion Euros“. As no one precisely knows how many lobbyists are in Brussels, this must be another estimated numbers. We declared this part of the statement as „uncheckable“. We tried to check the the official numbers. Bernhard Schinwald, spokesperson of the Representation Office of the EU Parliament in Vienna, refers to the transparency register. According to which 74 percent of the organizations spend up to 100.000 Euros on lobbying yearly, 24 percent spend between 100.000 and 1.000.000 per year and 2 percent spend over a million Euros. We tried to calculate the numbers according to the transparency register, however, the steps are too complicated to explain them in detail.
Julia Herr’s claim that there are „25.000 to 30.000“ lobbyists in Brussels is based on estimated numbers from NGOs LobbyControl and Transparency International. LobbyFacts confirmed the estimated numbers of lobbyists, though they still remain an estimate. Yet, it is a close as you can get to the number – so we declare Herr’s claim „mostly true“.