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Regulating lobbying activities in the European Union: A voluntary club perspective

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This article offers a systematic exploration of why interest groups sign up to the European Union Transparency Register, a non‐binding lobby regulation system. We distinguish between instrumental and normative perspectives to explain voluntary compliance, and find that concern for one's reputation represents the most important motivational driver. Based on this, we suggest that the Transparency Register can be understood as a “voluntary club” sponsored by European institutions. This theoretical perspective captures the appeal of the instrument among lobbyists, but also a number of inconsistencies in its current design, which make it unviable in the long term. We outline implications for the ongoing reform of the Transparency Register, and more generally for the regulation of lobbying activities. The analysis draws on semi‐structured interviews with various types of lobbyists active in Brussels, and on data from public consultations organized by the European Commission.
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalRegulation & Governance
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jul 2018