Codes of conduct and practical recommendations as tools for self‐regulation and soft regulation in EU public affairs

Date01 November 2018
Published date01 November 2018
Codes of conduct and practical recommendations as tools for
selfregulation and soft regulation in EU public affairs
Maria Cristina Antonucci
|Nicola Scocchi
CNR, National Research Council of Italy, ITB,
Rome Unit, Rome, Italy
FTI Brussels, Belgium
Maria Cristina Antonucci, Social Sciences
Researcher, CNR, National Research Council
of Italy, ITB, Rome Unit, Via dei Taurini 19,
Rome 00185, Italy.
During the 2000s2010s, EU Commission and Parliament and European interest
groups advanced a specific model of regulation. It combines, on one side, lobbyists
selfregulationthe codes of conduct for EU lobbying professionals' associations,
such as SEAP and EPACAwith institutional nonbinding or softregulation on the
other sidethe EU Transparency Register framework for registered interest groups,
its code of conduct, the related system of checks, alerts, and complaints about inter-
est groups misconduct put forward by the EU Joint Transparency Register Secretariat,
the list of Dos and Don'ts by the EU Ombudsman. This paper examines the peculiar
lobbying selfregulation and soft regulation tools and practices, as implemented within
the EU model: SEAP and EPACA codes of conduct, EU Transparency Register, EU
Interest Groups Code of Conduct, Commissioners and MPs codes of conduct, the pro-
cedures of the EU Joint Transparency Register Secretariat, and the Ombudsman list of
Dos and Don'ts, underlining their growing impact on interest groups registration to
the EU Transparency Register. This EU innovative regulatory modelbased on a pecu-
liar mix of selfregulation and institutional, incentivebased, soft regulationstands as a
concrete alternative to the traditional North American topdown binding regulatory
pattern. The EU model is based on a participatory, cooperative, and pragmatic dia-
logue between European policy makers and interest groups. Clarifying the concept,
the nature, and the functions of this model, while underlining its peculiarity is the
purpose of this paper.
The regulation of lobbying activities through binding models consti-
tutes the main tool to regulate the relations between interest groups
and decisionmakers in the United States and Canada. Yet binding reg-
ulatory frameworks are not universally widespread and cooccur with
other nonbinding models, based on selfregulation and on selective
incentives mechanisms. When it comes to these nonbinding models,
professional standards, such as ethical codes and codes of conduct,
play an important role in framing correct relations between decision
makers and interests groups.
In order to evaluate the role of nonbinding regulatory models,
this article analyzes the main features of the codes of conducts
developed by public affairs professionals' associations active in the
European Union's (EU) system, the European Public Affairs
Consultancies' Association (EPACA), and the Society of European
Affairs Professionals (SEAP) and analyzes their interaction with the
EU Transparency Register (TR) and its code of conduct. The latter
can be defined as a nonbinding, incentivesbased register: interest
groups seeking to influence the EU policy making process can regis-
ter voluntarily in exchange of several incentives (different forms of
access to the European Institutions). In this framework, the codes
of conduct developed by the associations representing public affairs
professionals played a special role. Professional associations, already
equipped with codes of ethics, implemented codes of conduct in
order to meet the institutional demands of selfregulation posed by
the TR.
The paper describes the process of selfregulation of EU interest
groups, by two mechanisms: bottomup selfregulation and topdown
incentivebased regulation.
Received: 15 May 2018 Accepted: 26 June 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1850
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1850.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, 1of7

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