NGOs criticise corporate influence in the EU

By EDRi · November 3, 2004

More than 50 NGOs, brought together by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), have urged the EU Commission to cut down the disproportionate corporate influence on Brussels policy making. In an open letter to designated Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the NGOs claim 15.000 Brussels lobbyists, “assisted by an army of public affairs consultants, today play a powerful and increasingly undemocratic role in the EU political process”. The groups mostly come from environmental, anti-globalisation and Third World movements.

They also criticise “revolving door’ cases”, naming the example of former Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan, “who less than a year after leaving the European Commission became not only consultant on WTO issues at the law firm Herbert Smith, but also Vice-Chairman of the investment bank UBS Warburg and Advisory Director at Unilever. Soon after, he also accepted the Chairmanship of the LOTIS Committee of International Financial Services London (IFSL), a lobby group representing the UK financial industry.”

They urge the upcoming President of the Commission to refrain from practices established by predecessors such as the ‘Trans-Atlantic Business dialogue’, co-founded by Sir Brittan and established with semi-official powers by the Prodi Commission. In addition they call for an obligation for transparency on the side of the lobbyists, following the U.S. example, as a step forward in re-establishing balance in Brussels decision making. “Without a radical improvement of the registration and reporting obligations for lobbyists working to influence the European institutions, there can be no effective democratic scrutiny of corporate influence over EU policy-making. Europe should learn from the lobbying disclosure legislation in place in the United States and Canada and oblige firms and organisations targeting the EU institutions (with a lobbying budget over a certain threshold) to submit regular reports giving details on the issues they are lobbying on, for which clients and with what budget. These lobbying disclosure reports should be fully accessible to the public in an online searchable database.”

European Commission Must Act to Curb Excessive Corporate Lobbying Power – Open Letter to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (25.10.2004)

The lobbying labyrinth – interactive map of the EU quarter in Brussels

EurActiv: Commission urged to curb corporate lobby influence in Brussels (03.11.2004)


(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)