facility:corporate europe observatory

  • Endocrine Disruptors | Corporate Europe Observatory

    The TTIP negotiations have been a major source of pressure against the EU taking action on endocrine disruptors. For instance, in March 2013, the US and EU pesticide lobby groups Croplife America and ECPA paid a joint visit to the Commission’s Secretary General to talk about the way the EU would deal with endocrine disruptors and how that seemed contrary to the goals of TTIP. Croplife America’s position was that the US should take action at the WTO “if the EU pursues its proposed new regulatory regime for endocrine disruptors without an approach based on risk assessment”. (Toxic Affair p.14).

    Three years later, mid-June 2016, the Commission had finally presented a proposal for criteria to identify endocrine disruptors. It was strongly criticised, among others by the Endocrine Society: the Commission criteria require “a level of certainty that are nearly unachievable scientifically”.
    One month later on 13 July 2016 Health Commissioner Andriukaitis received a visit from the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, specifically to address the issue of EU regulation of endocrine disruptors and the impacts on international trade... The minutes of this meeting, obtained by Oneworld.nl, show how the US ambassador opened the meeting by “expressing concern of countries on proposals submitted by COM [the Commission, red] on criteria for ED [endocrine disruptors, red], in particular their impact on import tolerances”.

    The Commission then responded: “COM proposal foresees possibility to establish MRLs [maximum residue levels, red], which should be accepted as an ambitious proposal to address the concerns expressed by the Ambassadors”.

    #ue #perturbateurs_endocriniens #commerce #santé

  • Avec cette impression que les flics de Hollande et de Valls se trompent un peu de clients, non ?


    Yesterday undercover police cracked down on anyone questioning the sponsors of a corporate “Solutions 21” event in Paris.

    The action was supported by Corporate Europe Observatory, Les Amis de la Terre France, Attac France (Officiel), Climate Justice Action, JEDIs, Solidaire and Friends of the Earth France. Kandi Mossett from the Indigenous Environmental Network spoke at the event.

    For more grassroots coverage from Paris: www.newint.org/live/paris

    Read the truth about corporate influence at COP21:


  • The revolving door : greasing the wheels of the TTIP lobby | Corporate Europe Observatory

    En gros, les entreprises ne se contentent pas de faire du lobbying pendant les négos du TTIP : elles sont carrément aux commandes puisqu’elles fournissent une partie des conseillers européens, ce qui est bien commode.

    The prospective EU-US trade deal TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) could be the world’s biggest such treaty. While there are disagreements and divergences, in many areas of the negotiations the European Commission is singing from the corporate hymn-sheet. The revolving door between the public and private sectors is helping to grease the wheels of the TTIP corporate lobby. Some of the EU’s most senior decision-makers and officials, alongside those from the member state levels, spin through the revolving door into corporate advisor roles; others go in the other direction, from corporate jobs into the public sector. These revolving door cases cover some of the biggest EU corporate lobby sectors, including telecoms and IT issues; food and agriculture; finance; investor-state dispute settlement; pharmaceuticals; regulatory cooperation; and others. This phenomenon creates great potential for conflicts of interest, and demonstrates the synergies between business interests and the European Commission, the UK government, and others when it comes to TTIP and trade negotiations.

  • 10 days before elections citizens show political leaders & big business that “Democracy is not for sale” | Corporate Europe Observatory

    Farmers, trade unions and citizens belonging to the D1920 Alliance and Alter Summit 1 tried to shut-down Brussels’ biggest corporate lobbying event this morning2, where many high-level political leaders were expected, in protest at big business dictating European policy while the voices of citizens are excluded.

    “It’s unacceptable that 10 days before regional, national and European elections, political and big business chiefs are colluding together to decide the future of Europe. But citizens had enough of a Europe made for high profits and social misery. Shutting down this lobbying jamboree is sending a clear message that democracy is not for sale at any price. We demand a Europe from below.” Said Rudy Janssens from Belgian public services trade union CGSP

    Felipé Van Keirsbilck from Belgian trade union CNE added, “Why are we still letting those who caused the crisis decide how we respond to it? Banks and big business, rather than taking responsibility for wrecking the economy, have passed the cost on to ordinary citizens who have watched as compliant governments demolish public services and people’s ability to earn a living. We don’t owe so why should we pay? We need an alternative to austerity.”

    Luc Hollands from Belgian milk producers cooperative MIG said, “Rather than looking for solutions to the crisis in the interest of citizens, our so-called political leaders like EU trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht are trying to make big business even richer through secretly negotiated transatlantic trade deals. And again its citizens and producers who will suffer, with deregulation seeing public services sold off while dangerous foods make their way to a plate near you. Who wants to eat hormone-filled beef or chlorine-washed chicken?”

    The police responded this morning by arresting hundreds of innocent citizens en-masse.

    Pascoe Sabido from Corporate Europe Observatory said "Once again we have seen that the priorities of big business are placed above those of Europe’s citizens. It’s simply not acceptable to arbitrarily arrest peaceful protestors for trying to make their voices heard above the billions of dollars spent by multinational corporations on lobbying. Democracy is trully broken and it doesn’t appear like our political leaders are in any hurry to fix it........


    >>> that “Democracy is not for sale” <<<

  • The record of a Captive Commission | Corporate Europe Observatory

    With the upcoming European elections, the term of the European Commission is coming to an end, and it has been a term like few others. Since it took office in early 2010, the European Union has experienced a severe financial and economic crisis that has transformed the bloc significantly. More competence over economic and fiscal policies has been given to the EU institutions in general, and the power of the Commission in particular has been boosted. Through the course of the crisis, attempts by corporations and corporate lobby groups to influence EU policies have probably been more successful than ever, in part due to a close relationship with the Commission.


    Corporate Europe Observatory has gathered a lot of evidence over time and covering many different areas that shows how the Commission is easily captured by corporate interests. This report is an attempt to produce a condensed version of how the Commission has come to act on behalf of corporations over the past five years, focusing on climate policies, agriculture and food, finance, economic, and fiscal policies.

    In short, European corporations have been very successful in exploiting the crisis to forward their own agendas, and the help of the European Commission has been instrumental in that effort. That is partly due to the composition of the Commission, but there is more to it than that.

    The European Commission is a very powerful body. It has the monopoly on legislative proposals – all suggestions tabled in the European Union come from the Commission. And yet it is unelected, and not directly accountable to anyone. Also, the Commission generally lives its life at a comfortable distance to public debate. There is little chance that the concerns of citizens will reach the chambers of the Commission unfiltered.

    On the other hand, it is a body that is easy to penetrate for corporate lobby groups with ample financial resources, for various reasons. For instance, the fact that the Commission has relatively few economic resources itself, with little in-house expertise, makes it all the more easy for corporate lobby groups to step in and influence the agenda.

    Thus an increase in the competence of the Commission tends to be directly proportional with corporate capture of EU decision making, which is why the current trend in that direction should raise concern. From the very beginning the Barroso II Commission has followed a corporate agenda, and its close links to the biggest corporations and banks in the European Union is a key trait of the current European project......


  • Barroso II Commission too close to big business | Corporate Europe Observatory

    Today the lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory released a critical report on the record of the European Commission over the last five years. The report sums up the record of the outgoing Barroso II Commission, in particular how the Commission has interacted with big business lobby groups during its term. It provides an overview of the role of the Commission in key areas, including international trade, financial regulation, climate change, agriculture, and the response to the crisis. The release coincides with the start of the European Business Summit, Brussels’ biggest lobbying event organised by employers’ federation BusinessEurope, where corporate CEOs enjoy unrivaled access to Europe’s commissioners and political leaders, it is an event where, in its own words, “business and politics shape the future”.

    The critique of the Commission in the report is severe. It concludes that the Commission has pursued a corporate agenda, with little regard for other interests in society. On top of this, the Commission has fought tooth and nail to avoid effective regulation of lobbyists, including by opposing a mandatory register and avoiding serious reform of its advisory structure, with its so-called expert groups dominated by big business representatives in many areas.

    Kenneth Haar, co-author of the report, said:
    “The Barroso II Commission is the European Commission at its worst. With the crisis, it has managed to expand its competence, and has used its new powers to impose policies that fit neatly with the interests of big business. This will be a term that Europeans won’t forget any time soon. It leaves the Commission with less legitimacy.”...............

    #Commission too close to #big-business
    #lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory

  • New video: “Suing the State - Hidden rules within the EU-US trade deal” | Corporate Europe Observatory

    This film presents some of the dangers of the investor rights within the proposed EU-US trade deal. We need to stop this corporate attack on our democracy and policies to protect the public interest.



  • Still not loving ISDS: 10 reasons to oppose investors’ super-rights in EU trade deals | Corporate Europe Observatory

    For example, tobacco giant Philip Morris is demanding US$2 billion from Uruguay over health warnings on cigarette packets; Swedish polluter Vattenfall is seeking over US$3.7 billion from Germany following a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy; and Canadian company Lone Pine is suing Canada via a US-subsidiary for CAN$250 million after the Canadian province of Quebec imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction (fracking) over environmental concerns.

    #investor-state dispute settlement
    #Transatlantic-Trade-and-Investment-Partnership #TTIP

  • Civil society call for full transparency in EU-US trade negotiations | Corporate Europe Observatory

    Together with 26 networks and organisations, Corporate Europe Observatory has today launched a joint civil society call for transparency in the TTIP negotiations. The call is directed to European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht and is asking for the full disclosure of all negotiation texts as well as pro-active lobby transparency. It is open for more civil society organisations who want to support it.

    Dear Commissioner De Gucht,

    The undersigned organisations are writing to express deep concerns about the lack of transparency around the ongoing trade talks on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We are calling on you to open the negotiation process to the public, by releasing the negotiating mandate, documents submitted by the EU, and negotiating texts.

    The European Commission has repeatedly stated that trade and investment between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are already highly integrated, and that the main focus of TTIP will be to achieve regulatory convergence by removing so-called non-tariff barriers to trade. This means that the outcome has much less to do with traditional trade issues such as tariffs, than with the regulations and standards that apply in the EU and the US and that affect every single aspect of citizens’ daily lives – from the quality of the food we eat to the safety of chemicals we use, the energy we consume, or the impact of financial services on each of us.

    Civil society groups in the EU and in the US have voiced concerns that this might lower standards and remove safeguards across the board. They have requested greater transparency about the negotiations to address these concerns. The setting up of a stakeholder advisory group for the negotiations by the EU – although an improvement compared to previous negotiations – is far from sufficient to make the process fully transparent. Members of the group will have limited access to the negotiating texts under strict confidentiality rules, and these will remain out of reach for the rest of interested civil society groups and citizens.

    The European Commission has argued that secrecy in this process is inevitable because this is a matter of international relations. If these negotiations are intended to affect domestic regulations, standards and safeguards on each side, then citizens have the right to know what is being put on the table, and how this is being negotiated. The standard legislative process in the EU allows for public scrutiny of each step of policy-making as well as full involvement of the European Parliament. We would urge that those negotiations should comply with the same level of openness. The process should also allow for public accountability of the European Commission for the negotiating positions that it takes. Given that many of the issues under negotiation relate to the environment, this would also reflect the EU’s obligations under Article 3(7) of the Aarhus Convention to promote access to information, public participation and access to justice in international environmental decision-making processes.1

    Furthermore there are several examples of international negotiation processes, which provide a greater degree of openness to civil society than the negotiations on TTIP do, and whereby negotiating documents are disclosed........

    #TTIP Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
    #EU-US trade negotiations

  • The agrichemical lobby already laying the ground work for the next Parliament | Corporate Europe Observatory

    With the end of this Parliament’s term approaching – EU elections will take place in May this year – it seems that agrichemical corporations and their allies are using the few remaining voting opportunities left to have a couple of usefully-worded resolutions voted upon by this Parliament, a parliament which they know well and which has generally been rather supportive to their positions. This Parliament’s Agriculture Committee for instance had the worst position among all EU institutions in the whole debate about the Common Agriculture Policy, with the outcome that the EU’s biggest budget will keep funding the EU’s largest landowners as well as most destructive and harmful agricultural practices. These resolutions will probably be used as references to convince newly-elected MEPs.

    A first example of this strategy is the resolution due to be voted upon by the European Parliament on Tuesday 11 March in Strasbourg on “the future of Europe’s horticulture sector – strategies for growth”. The text is based on a report by British Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre who is a business intelligence consultant in the UK and was nominated to the European Parliament in 2011, following an increase in the total number of seats in the Parliament as foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty.

    Her original text is a list of facts about the horticulture sector, notably the challenges this sector is facing in terms of increasing production costs, climate change impacts and the excessive market power of supermarkets in the whole supply chain, that get combined with the current talking points of the agrichemical industry about the need for intensifying production thanks to genetic engineering and new pesticides, if possible with extra public research funding. The list of all industry-friendly elements in her report actually reads as a good overview of industry’s wishlist these days:

    to remove phytosanitary barriers impending exports to third-country markets, an important demand in the TTIP context;

    to consider pesticides as an asset for the sector, particularly “minor uses”, thereby echoing an ongoing lobbying campaign by the pesticides lobby to get dedicated EU research funding to develop pesticides that the private companies in that sector do not want to develop themselves for, they say, lack of a large enough market to support development costs;

    to only regulate pesticides when the scientific evidence is clear – which would exclude a precautionary approach when there is not enough scientific evidence to reach a firm conclusion (the report pays tribute to “peer-reviewed” and “independent” scientific literature though);

    to be cautious about the impact on pesticides of the ongoing Commission initiative on endocrine disruptors on pesticides, a major fight in Brussels this year – the chemical lobby already won a first battle by getting the Commission to lead an impact assessment before any definition is even agreed on, which will delay and possibly weaken the whole process;

    to lift the ongoing ban on neonicotinoid pesticides – a class of pesticides among the most toxic ever produced and that beekeepers blame for contributing to destroy bee colonies – by adding economic considerations in the risk assessment (short-term profits versus bees survival, choose your camp...);

    to “recognise” that new genetic engineering breeding techniques such as cisgenesis are “not a form of genetic modification” and therefore require a different risk assessment regime than transgenesis, i.e. they should not be subjected to the same scrutiny;

    to strengthen and extend research partnerships between governments, industry and academia, so that research in that sector is steered in an industry-friendly way.

    Such an one-sided list might be explained by the origin of the lobbyists Mrs McIntyre met while preparing her report1. The names she disclosed all belong to the commercial sector, with the exception of one academic, the director of the Warwick Crop Centre (a UK university also working with industry). For the rest, the MEP almost exclusively met with lobbyists from the UK commercial agricultural sector:

    the British Growers Association (vegetables growers’ lobby), the Horticulture Innovation Partnership (a UK platform involving businesses and research centres), Lantra (a UK company representing the land and environment commercial sectors), the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA, the UK lobby group representing the garden industry), the British Society of Plant Breeders (seed industry, representing most major multinationals of the sector) and twice the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), a national professional association. The only non-UK group met on this was COPA-COGECA, the European umbrella association of national large farmers’ unions.

    The McIntyre report was then modified through amendments in the Agriculture Committee, where the text was both improved and worsened: German Green MEP Martin Haüsling tabled many amendments related to the detrimental impacts of monoculture and the use of agrichemicals on soils quality and farms resilience, but Italian conservative MEP Herbert Dorfmann for instance sneaked in an amendment saying that standards used by supermarkets for maximum pesticide residues to minimise consumers exposure to these chemicals were “anticompetitive” and “detrimental to the interests of F[ruit]&V[egetable] growers”, calling the Commission to “put an end to such practices”. As a result, the text has become completely contradictory and no longer makes any sense, but this matters little to the agrichemical industry, as presumably their main focus is on ensuring their wishlist stays in the report so it can be quoted and referred to in the next Parliament: the final vote on this text next Tuesday will decide whether these industries will reach their goal or not.

    However, such goals may have already been reached with another resolution tabled by MEP Marit Paulsen, a Swedish liberal. Voted on 25 February and opposed by only a third of the Parliament, the resolution contained very similar points to Macintyre’s report. It is aligned with the general "we need intensive chemical use to feed the world” message that the pesticides industry is putting forward in an effort to counter the growing public and environmental health concerns about its products. Among those points, the Paulsen resolution for instance:

    – said that the ban of certain particularly damaging pesticides for minor uses (such as some horticulture crops) is having a “jeopardising” effect on the production of these crops, and that solutions have to be found.

    – called for more support for so-called New Breeding Techniques, a term crafted by biotech companies to hide ’new’ GM crops produced with other genetic engineering techniques than transgenesis (such as cisgenesis, mutagenesis etc.). By saying that these techniques would not involve actual genetic modification, these companies are trying to get them excluded from the GM legislation altogether - Paulsen’s report actually stated that products should not be assessed based on the techniques with which they were produced.
    – called for money from research program Horizon 2020 to be spent on the development of these techniques.


  • Food lobby fights labelling of nano ingredients | Corporate Europe Observatory

    A discreet but important lobbying battle is currently being fought in Brussels over the labelling of nano ingredients in food products. Nano food ingredients are made from materials at a scale so small that this gives them very interesting properties for a wide range of applications, but also raises largely unanswered questions about their health and environmental impacts, making consumer information a key parameter at this stage of the technology’s development. Some in the European Parliament are mobilising to reject a technical text by the Commission complementing a 2011 food regulation, because this text would exclude all existing food additives used in their nano form from being labelled. The food additives industry is lobbying MEPs with scare tactics, claiming that the Commission’s text is required to avoid labelling of foods that have been produced for decades with conventional processes such as mayonnaise or instant coffee. Yet in fact, this is misleading as the 2011 regulation already clearly states it only covers nano materials manufactured with the intention to obtain effects specific to the nano scale. The final vote in the Parliament will take place next Wednesday 12 March.

    Nanomaterials are by definition materials whose size is in the nanometer scale (1-100 nm typically), the scale of most known viruses. Nanomaterials are increasingly attracting attention and research for a large range of applications – medical, military, industrial... – because the nanoscale often confers different properties to materials than they have in their bulk form. This difference however is also the source of great uncertainties about these compounds’s health and environmental impacts. Since many nanomaterials are already used in commercial products including food, labelling is seen as a way of giving a choice to consumers pending more research is done.

    The EU’s 2011 Regulation on Food Information to Consumers (1169/2011, “FIC”) states that “All ingredients present in the form of engineered nanomaterials shall be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients. The names of such ingredients shall be followed by the word ’nano’ in brackets.” A rule that seems clear enough, yet the European Commission was delegated the power to define “engineered nanomaterials” more precisely. The Commission published its criteria, in a delegated act, in December 2013 to “amend and clarify” the 2011 Food Information Regulation.

    The problem is that these new Commission criteria seem uniquely restrictive. The Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers (SANCO), in charge of the file, came up with criteria so narrow that only new additives will be labeled, arguing that “indicating such food additives [ed: already approved in the EU] in the list of ingredients followed by the word ‘nano’ in brackets may confuse the consumers as it may suggest that those additives are new while in reality they have been used in foods in that form for decades”. This is in line with the lobbying of the food additives industry, which disingenously argues (see below) that unintentionally produced or naturally occurring nanoparticles will lead to unnecessary labelling of foods whose recipe hasn’t changed for decades.


  • No fracking way - how the EU-US trade agreement risks expanding fracking | Corporate Europe Observatory

    A trade deal between the EU and the US risks opening the backdoor for the expansion of fracking in Europe and the US, reveals a new report by Corporate Europe Observatory and other groups. As part of the deal currently being negotiated, energy companies could be allowed to take governments to private international tribunals if they attempt to regulate or ban fracking and the dangerous exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels. Campaigners are urging the EU not to include such rights in trade deals.

    This brief analyses the investor rights clause in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and how it could give special rights to companies to claim damages if they deem their investments (including future profits) are adversely affected by changes in regulation or policy.This would make it much harder for countries to ban or impose strong regulations on fracking for shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels, for fear of having to pay millions in compensation. The report also argues that TTIP could expand fracking by removing the ability of governments to control natural gas exports.

    More broadly, TTIP could likely thwart governments’ efforts to address global warming and reduce dependency on fossil fuels, the report states. It calls on the EU and the US to exclude investor-state dispute settlement rights from the agreement and from other trade deals in the pipeline – including the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).


    No fracking way - how the EU-US trade agreement risks expanding fracking
    March 6th 2014
    Climate and Energy
    Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

    A trade deal between the EU and the US risks opening the backdoor for the expansion of fracking in Europe and the US, reveals a new report by Corporate Europe Observatory and other groups. As part of the deal currently being negotiated, energy companies could be allowed to take governments to private international tribunals if they attempt to regulate or ban fracking and the dangerous exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels. Campaigners are urging the EU not to include such rights in trade deals.

    This brief analyses the investor rights clause in the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and how it could give special rights to companies to claim damages if they deem their investments (including future profits) are adversely affected by changes in regulation or policy.This would make it much harder for countries to ban or impose strong regulations on fracking for shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels, for fear of having to pay millions in compensation. The report also argues that TTIP could expand fracking by removing the ability of governments to control natural gas exports.

    More broadly, TTIP could likely thwart governments’ efforts to address global warming and reduce dependency on fossil fuels, the report states. It calls on the EU and the US to exclude investor-state dispute settlement rights from the agreement and from other trade deals in the pipeline – including the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

    #TTIP Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
    #CETA Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

  • Regulation - none of our business ? | Corporate Europe Observatory

    n this way, regulatory cooperation means that existing and future EU regulation will have to go through a series of investigations, dialogues and negotiations which is likely to mean that a decision will be made outside the framework of public scrutiny and democratic decision-making. And the odds are that it will end in a major offensive for deregulation, for an annulment of existing protection measures and for a firm brake on new regulation. And if other parts of the TTIP negotiations are taken into account, the prospects are outright scary. If, for instance, TTIP will include an “investor-state dispute settlement mechanism”, US firms will be allowed to sue the EU or member state governments on regulations which they feel unfairly impact upon their profits. With a Regulatory Cooperation Council in place, there is a risk that threats to start law suits will be effective and will prevent regulations aimed at improving health or social protection.

  • Secret lobbying by law firms shows the need for a mandatory transparency register | Corporate Europe Observatory

    The review of the EU’s Transparency Register for lobbyists is entering its crucial final phase. The working group on the register review - consisting of Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič and MEPs led by German Christian Democrat Rainer Wieland – is expected to make important decisions in a meeting on November 13th. The current register has several serious shortcomings that need fixing (as documented in an in-depth report by the ALTER-EU coalition in June), which is why ALTER-EU is running an urgent action to demand that the register is overhauled. But perhaps the most important is the continued boycott of the register by law firms that lobby. The credibility of the EU’s lobby register is at stake unless the law firms are forced to register.

    In mid-October, the New York Times published one of the most important investigations this year into EU lobbying, exposing important facts about a little-known aspect of corporate lobbying in Brussels: the lobbying by a dozen or more international law firms, many of which are US companies. Eric Lipton and Danny Hakim, award-winning journalists, dug deep into the issues and managed to get law firm lobbyists to talk about their lobby successes. The article highlights lobbying by Hogan Lovells that led to a US semiconductor company being given an exemption to EU environmental law enabling it to continue using a potentially hazardous chemical substance. Lipton and Hakim show how Covington & Burling’s lobbying on behalf of pension funds prevented the introduction of restrictions on pension funds to invest in private equity. The law firm is now lobbying for oil companies like Chevron and Statoil to avoid restrictions on fracking. The article also describes how Baker Botts is gearing up to lobby to help companies weaken EU rules as part of EU-US trade negotiations (TTIP). These are just a few examples.

    The article – a must-read for everyone with an interest in how the EU’s decisions are made – shows that large US law firms are active in Brussels lobbying in very much the same way as lobby consultancy firms, but with one significant difference. Whereas the majority of consultancies are registered, law firms continue to boycott the EU’s voluntary lobby transparency register and therefore do not disclose their clients or any other information about their lobbying. Five years after the Commission established the lobby register, virtually none of the law firms with Brussels lobby activities are registered. Law firms continue to claim that they are obliged to provide client confidentiality (something that is true when it comes to defending clients in court cases, but obviously not when it concerns a completely unrelated lucrative side-business that these firms have developed: lobbying).

    The boycott by law firms reveals the weakness of the voluntary approach of the EU’s Transparency Register. In the US, where lobby disclosure is a legal obligation, law firms are registered and in fact they dominate the list of biggest spenders in lobbying. Hogan Lovells and Covington & Burling are both in the top-20, with a lobbying turnover of US$9.2 and US$8.7 million respectively in the first three quarters of 2013, as fresh data from the US register shows. In the US, the lobby register was voluntary until 1995, when lawmakers opted for a mandatory register, precisely because law firms continued to refuse to sign up under the voluntary model. The lesson for EU decision-makers should be easy to draw, but unfortunately there is little appetite for making registration mandatory....


  • EU lobby register review : Parliament vice-president for transparency opposed to improved transparency ? | Corporate Europe Observatory

    At Corporate Europe Observatory, we’ve been receiving a lot of questions recently about the current review of the EU’s lobby transparency register, from NGOs, students and journalists: do we know how it is going, what are our expectations? It’s hardly surprising that there are questions: the review process so far has happened with virtually no transparency. There is no webpage to refer to for basic information such as who are the MEPs that are negotiating with the Commission about the review, which key issues are they discussing and what is their deadline, let alone any of the documents discussed in the working group. The ALTER-EU coalition and Transparency International have repeatedly argued that a process which is aimed at boosting transparency should be transparent itself, but so far with no result.
    What we’ve heard through the grapevine about the working group meetings is that there’s not a lot of appetite for ambitious transparency reforms, such as replacing the voluntary register with mandatory registration or introducing far more comprehensive disclosure by lobbyists. This is at least partly due to the composition of the group. Parliament President Schulz is said to have insisted that the group should consist only of members of the Bureau (which consists of the Parliament’s 14 Vice-Presidents), which has meant that a range of MEPs who most actively promote transparency reforms have not been allowed in. The chair of the working group is Rainer Wieland MEP who is also the European Parliament’s vice-president responsible for transparency but who is in fact developing a worrying reputation as a transparency-skeptic.

    During a public debate on International Right to Know Day (27 September), Wieland - to the bemusement of much of the audience - used most of his speech to warn against further transparency reforms. Wieland failed to comment on the deep structural problems with the current transparency register, which had been outlined by a previous speaker from the ALTER-EU coalition. He argued that the review of the transparency register needed to happen ’without MEPs publishing a press release every day’. It’s hard to see what Wieland is so concerned about: so far not a single press release has been published by any of the MEP members of the working group. What is so dangerous and wrong about public debate about how best to improve EU lobby transparency? One can only guess. When asked by the event moderator what his ambitions for the review of the register were, Wieland mentioned only two points: increasing the number of registrants and getting the EU Council involved. Now these are both not unimportant, but the single quickest way to increase the number of registrants would be to make the register mandatory and to force those who lobby in the shadows out into the clarifying light of transparency. And this is not a particularly radical position; in fact it is the European Parliament’s agreed position, as expressed in a plenary vote in May 2011. ...


  • The anniversary of broken promises | Corporate Europe Observatory

    The anniversary of broken promises


    September 13th 2013 The financial lobby

    5 years after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and the beginning of the worst economic crisis in decades, the EU has not delivered on promises of strong regulation of the financial sector. A swift overhaul is needed. Together with other organisations (full list at the end), CEO has signed the statement below. 

    The 15th of September marks the fifth anniversary of the most spectacular bankruptcy in the financial crisis of 2007-2008. On that day, renowned Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy due to disastrous investments in US real estate through financial products. At the time, European leaders made bold promises to reform financial regulation in the EU “to respond to crises, but also to avoid them in the future”, Commission President Barroso said. Five years on, the results are woefully insufficient.

    The financial crisis led to a devastating economic crisis in Europe. Unemployment in the EU has increased steadily to a record level of nearly 26 million – a staggering 10.7% of the labour force with youth unemployment much higher. It also set the euro crisis in motion which has resulted in painful austerity measures in almost all EU countries and hundreds of billions of euros in expensive bailouts of banks that made bad loans in the first place. Having paid such a high price, European citizens have every right to demand effective action from politicians to protect us from a repeat of this meltdown. But after five years of financial ‘reform’ in the EU, the return on our investment is woefully inadequate.

    The evidence is clear: European banks continue to be undercapitalised, and EU banking regulation continues to allow banks – such as Deutsche Bank and Barclays – to borrow even more than Lehman Brothers did before it crashed1; derivatives markets continue to grow and now stand at a value much higher than five years ago2; few toxic financial instruments have been banned, not even the complicated securities that played a key role in the crisis.

    One key reason for this failure is the success of the financial lobby to keep effective regulation at bay. The financial industry is spending millions to influence decision makers, and scaremongering is their standard argument: they claim that regulating finance would be costly to society in terms of unemployment. However, this is an absurd argument if one looks at the costs of the crisis in 2008, regarding bank bail outs and millions of people losing their jobs.

    Financial corporations have enjoyed uninterrupted privileged access to decision makers, for instance in the debate on new rules on banking and on derivatives. As pointed out repeatedly by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the EU (ALTER-EU) and others, advisory groups of the Commission and the Council were, and are still, dominated by representatives from big financial corporations. A group recently set up to advice the EU on measures to stop tax evasion is full with representatives of the same accountancy industry that is so instrumental in advising companies how they can minimize their tax payments.

    #financial_industry is spending millions to influence decision makers
    #investment is woefully inadequate.
    to #stop_tax evasion
    #regulation of the financial sector

  • European Commission preparing for EU-US trade talks: 119 meetings with industry lobbyists | Corporate Europe Observatory


    In response to an access to documents request from Corporate Europe Observatory, the European Commission has released a list of 130 ‘meetings with stakeholders’ on the EU-US free trade talks. At least 119 meetings were with large corporations and their lobby groups. This means that more than 93% of the Commission’s meetings with stakeholders during the preparations of the negotiations were with big business. The list of meetings reveals that, in addition to the civil society dialogue meetings reported on the DG Trade website, there is a parallel world of a very large number of intimate meetings with big business lobbyists behind closed doors - and these are not disclosed online.

    Negotiations on an EU-US ‘free trade’ agreement (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP) started in July this year amid strong controversy and public concern about the impacts such an agreement could have on environmental regulations, food standards, data protection and other issues. The European Commission, which represents the EU in the negotiations, has reacted with a propaganda offensive that includes a Q&A website full of misleading claims about the TTIP talks and a ‘@EU_TTIP_team’ that counters critical messages on twitter. In mid-July, the Commission made a huge deal out of the civil society dialogue it had organised in Brussels on the TTIP talks, posting dozens of tweets about the event, praising the “interesting discussion” on issues such as “the environment, transparency, development” with “as many questions from NGOs [...] than there were from Industry”.

    The event also features prominently on the website of the Commission’s trade department (DG Trade), in the ‘Dialogues’ section where the Commission states that it aims for “a transparent and accountable trade policy based on consultations with all parts of European civil society”. But what is disclosed on the website is only a tiny part of the meetings that DG Trade has with ‘stakeholders’.

    In April, Corporate Europe Observatory submitted an access to documents request in order to get an overview of the Commission’s contacts with industry, in the context of the preparations for the EU-US trade talks. The Commission’s first response was to ask us to "narrow down the scope” of the request, because it “concerns a very large number of documents”. Three months later the first result arrived: a list of 130 ‘meetings with stakeholders’ that took place between January 2012 and April 2013.1 A few weeks later another five meetings were added to this list. DG Trade has informed us that the minutes and other reports of these 135 meetings, as well as correspondence between DG trade and industry lobbies, will be released later, but that they “cannot yet commit to a specific date”.

    #TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)
    #NGOs #ONG

  • EU member states refuse nomination ex-Monsanto employee for #EFSA management board | Corporate Europe Observatory

    Mella Frewen, #lobby chief at food industry lobbygroup FoodDrinkEurope (previously known as the CIAA) and former Monsanto employee was on the list of 14 potential candidates, from which 7 will have to be selected to replace half of the EFSA management board members this summer. Frewen has been the chief lobbyist at FDE since 2007 where she actively lobbied for instance to allow contamination of the #food chain with genetically engineered plants which were not authorised in Europe. Frewen would replace Matthias Horst, chief lobbyist of the German food industry, who is now on the EFSA management board.

  • Roundtable on Responsible Soy - the certification smokescreen

    The Roundtable on Responsible Soy launched its voluntary certification process in 2006, with the first certificates introduced in 2011. Audits of 10 of the companies certified have now been published online. This briefing by the GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth (England Wales and Northern Ireland) and Corporate Europe Observatory analyses the audits and finds they show little evidence of responsible soy production on the ground.


  • European Parliament postpones EFSA budget approval over conflicts of interest (Corporate Europe Observatory)

    In a plenary vote, the European Parliament today adopted a report by Monica Macovei MEP (PPE), deciding that the approval of the European food agency’s 2010 budget will be postponed. Also, a strong resolution was adopted denouncing the conflicts of interest that have plagued the agency. A similar decision was taken on the approval of the 2010 budget of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). (...) Source: Corporate Europe Observatory

  • Stop listening to banks (Corporate Europe Observatory)

    The financial and economic crises have revealed the entrenched power of the banks in the European Union. In this EU in Crisis essay, Corporate Europe Observatory’s Kenneth Haar describes how a wave of financial regulation was set in motion by the crisis in 2008. By now most of this regulation has been passed, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that the banks are being let off the hook. Looking back, banking lobbyists can conclude that decision makers have practically fallen over themselves to serve the banking industry’s interests. The dream of a European Union that would curb the power of finance has become a joke, and instead we’ve seen a bankers’ Europe emerge that may make even Wall Street envious. (...) Source: Corporate Europe Observatory

  • Deux organisations non gouvernementales, le Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) de Belgique et le Réseau Santé Environnement (RES) ont révélé aujourd’hui par un communiqué de presse les liens de deux experts de l’Autorité Européenne de Sécurité des Aliments (AESA) avec l’industrie agroalimentaire.

    NGOs demand dismissal of two EFSA experts who failed to declare food industry links | Corporate Europe Observatory

    New research has today revealed further conflicts of interest among experts advising the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) about the safety of food additives, including aspartame [1].
    Research by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Réseau Environnement Santé/French Network on Health and Environment (RES) found that two of the new experts appointed by EFSA to the panel responsible for looking at food additives have failed to declare consulting activities for the food industry-funded think tank and lobby group International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).

    CEO and RES have written to EFSA to demand the dismissal of the two experts. They have also written to EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič to urge tighter new rules governing conflicts of interest within the EU’s agencies [2].

    According to the new research, Riccardo Crebelli, a research director at the Italian Institute of Health, and Ursula Gundert-Remy, a former medical expert at the German Institute for Risk Assessment, have both acted as advisers for ILSI in the past five years. Gundert-Remy was appointed a scientific adviser at the ILSI Research Foundation in Washington in 2005, and Crebelli was a member of a scientific committee on the safety of food packaging set up by ILSI in 2008.

    #sécurité-alimentaire #conflit-d-intérêts