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EU Policy Led by Corporations/Lobbies

By Manon Godot, 3d of November 2010

Corporations lobbies play an important role in the EU decision-making process, undermining our democratic priorities, mainly in the fields of agriculture, energy and climate change policy.

 

In 2005, the European Commissioner Kallas launched a Transparency Initiative, in order to reinforce the ethic rules of the EU policymaking. The goal of this initiative was to supervise the role of the 15,000 estimated lobbyists in the EU decision-making process, in order to restore EU citizen’s trust in the EU project.

In a report adopted in May 2008, the EU Parliament asked for the creation of a mandatory public register system for lobbyists seeking to influence the policy of either the EU Parliament, the EU Commission or the Council of the EU. The Parliament also voted a “Code of Conduct for Interest Representatives”  in order to regulate lobbyists behaviour, and required a register system which would provide “full financial disclosure” of the relashionship between the EU institutions and the lobbyists.

The requests of the Parliament were however not taken into account, as in June 2008, the European Commission launched its own voluntary register system for lobbyists seeking to influence the Commission’s policy. The interest of such a register was however limited, as it was partial and allowed the lobbysist who wanted to hide part of their activity to do so.

The process began to move forward in December 2008, when the EU Commission and Parliament formed a working group to discuss the possibility of forming a common lobbyists register. In April 2009, they both agreed on a code of conduct for a joined voluntary register.

The situation is currently the same as it was two years ago. No mandatory register system, nor code of conduct, exist in order to properly control the action of the lobbies on the EU policy.

The Industry lobbysits are holding hostage the integrity of the EU decision-making process, as its policy is being influenced by economic considerations of the industry, rather than by the public interest.

According to a report of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) on 1st December 2008[1], supposed EU measures thought to handle the climate change issues have been incredibly reduced by wide lobbysit campaigns by different sectors of industry. Analysis of the Poznań’s Internatioanl Climate Talk Negociations show that many of the original proposals to counter climate change have been “dramatically watered down in response to industry lobbying”.

In the same way, the Aviation Industry Body IATA is well known for its efforts against the EU regulatory action on climate change, using strategies such as greenwashing and blatant manipulation of its ecological impact.[2]

One of the main reasons why the lobbies have such a strong influence on EU policy, is the closeness of the relashionship between EU politicians and the corporate lobbyists. More than half of the top EU politicians move straight from their posts to lucrative lobbying jobs. Due to this phenomenon, many qualify the EU as a “lobbyocracy run by big business.”

“The ‘revolving door’ between the European Commission and lobbyists fuels corruption, as officials compete for the fattest pay cheque when they leave office and then put their relationships and influence to work for the highest bidder” – Avaaz, 1/11/10 – [3]

 

An illustration of this happening is the current employment of six ex-Commissioners in the private sector. Former internal market commissioner (2004-2010) Charlie McCreevy (ex Irish Minister of Finance and Tourism) became in May 2010 Ryanair’s new Director. In the same way, former Vice-President and Commissioner for Industry Günter Verheugen became senior advisor and Vice-President to the Royal Bank of Scotland after his term expired.

A way to avoid the manipulation of our interests by industry lobbies would be the establishment of a stricter control process of the relashionship between lobbyists and EU Institutions, especially by the adoption of a mandatory register system for all lobbies involved in the EU policy, and the constitution of a strict code of conduct to rule the connections bewteen Lobbies and EU institutions’members.

On this behalf, the EU Parliament has just threatened to withhold the EU budget money until a new code of conduct is introduced. In a few days, parliamentarians will meet with the Commission members to hear their proposals. We, EU citizens, need to create a general outcry in order to support the establishment of a code of conduct concerning EU Institutions’ members and their relashionship with corporations lobbies.

The primacy of the corporations’ interests on the protection of the environment and citizens democratic rights is intolerable.

Avaaz, an  non-governmental-organization interested in political and human rights issues, just launched a campaign in order to support the establishment of a “strong new code of conduct” to prevent these kinds of abuses. To support this action sign avaaz’s petition online:EU close the revolving doors

 

Sources:

http://www.corporateeurope.org/climate-and-energy/news/2008/12/01/big-business-deflates-eu-climate-package

http://www.angrymermaid.org/iata

http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_lobby_rules/?cl=815302129&v=

http://www.euractiv.com/en/pa/transparency-initiative-linksdossier-188351

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/studies/download.do?file=18208


[1] http://www.corporateeurope.org/climate-and-energy/news/2008/12/01/big-business-deflates-eu-climate-package

[2] http://www.angrymermaid.org/iata

[3] http://www.avaaz.org/en/eu_lobby_rules/?cl=815302129&v=

 

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