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January 23, 2009 1:20 am

Gazprom lobbyist suspended from EU

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Gazprom’s Brussels lobbying firm has been suspended from the European Union’s lobbying register for failing to disclose the identity of three clients.

GPlus Europe, one of Brussels’ most influential lobbying firms, is the first to be suspended from the voluntary registry, which was established in June to promote greater transparency about the role of lobbyists in EU decision making.

The commission’s decision, communicated in a letter last week, does not imply any wrongdoing by GPlus or restrict its ability to operate.

Peter Guilford, one of GPlus’ founders, said the firm had informed the commission in December, when it first joined the registry, that it had pre-existing confidentiality agreements with three clients, who did not want their names disclosed. Two of those clients are no longer represented by GPlus.

“We’ve been super-transparent,” Mr Guilford said, noting that the clients in question included two trade associations and one corporation.

GPlus has since published on its own website the information it submitted to the commission about its relations with Gazprom and dozens of other clients.

The episode underlines the challenges of devising an effective lobbying registry. The EU plan calls for participants to disclose all their clients, and their respective payments within 50,000 euros. Since its launch in June, more than 800 firms have signed on.

Yet lobbyists and even commission officials acknowledge that many others would be prevented from registering due to their clients’ concerns about privacy. “I think it’s an anomaly that needs ironing out when they review [the registry] in the summer,” Mr Guilford said.

GPlus, a division of media giant Omnicom, was hired by Moscow after it received most of the blame for a 2006 gas dispute with Ukraine that disrupted supplies to western Europe.

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