The overwhelming majority of lobby meetings held by European Commissioners and their closest advisors are with representatives of corporate interests, according to an analysis published Jun. 24 by Transparency International (TI). The findings of the report were revealed by EU Integrity Watch, a new lobby monitoring tool launched by TI.
The assessment of the situation of lobbying in Brussels, the political capital of the European Union, follows the April publication of TI’s report on lobbying in Europe. That report analysed lobbying in 19 European countries and in the three European Union institutions and showed examples of undue influence on policy-making processes across the region and in Brussels.
“There is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get [with European Commission officials]. Those organisations with the biggest lobby budgets get a lot of access, particularly on the financial, digital and energy portfolios,” explained Daniel Freund, Transparency International EU.
- More than 75% were with corporate lobbyists.
- Only 18% were with NGOs.
- 4% were with think tanks.
- 2% with local authorities.
Google, General Electric and Airbus were reported to be among the most active lobbyists at this level, and Google and General Electric were also said to be some of the biggest spenders in Brussels, each declaring EU lobby budgets of around €3.5 million per year.
Of the 7,908 organisations which have voluntarily registered in the EU Transparency Register, a voluntary register for EU lobbyists, 4,879 seek to influence political decisions of the European Union on behalf of corporate interests.
While large global NGOs, such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace, are in the Top 10 of organisations with most meetings, TI said it was notable that meetings with civil society are often held as large roundtable events with multiple participants. In November 2014, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issued instructions on the Commission’s working methods:
“While contact with stakeholders is a natural and important part of the work of a Member of the Commission, all such contacts should be conducted with transparency and Members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet.”
The new data also reveals that 80% of the 7,821 organisations currently signed up the Transparency Register did not have a single meeting reported with a Commissioner or their teams, demonstrating the limitations of the European Commission’s new transparency provisions that only cover the highest ranking top 1% of E.U. officials and only 20% of the registered lobby organisations. Lower-level officials, such as the team negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States, are not covered.
“The European Commission should be congratulated on providing this insight into lobbying of high-level officials, but this is just part of the picture,” said Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU.
“Officials are lobbied at all levels and greater transparency is required to reassure the public about the integrity of EU policy-making.”
Transparency International EU also found that many organisations still remain absent from the register. This includes 14 of the 20 biggest law-firms in the world that all have Brussels offices, such as
- Clifford Chance, whose client is Pernod-Ricard, one of the biggest alcohol producers in the world,
- White & Case or
- Sidley Austin, who has clients within the beer and wine industry.
Eleven out of these 14 law firms have registered as lobby organisations in Washington DC, where registration is mandatory.
“Much of the information that lobbyists voluntarily file with the lobby register is inaccurate, incomplete or outright meaningless,” said Freund.
Over 60% of organisations that lobbied the European Commission on TTIP, the ongoing negotiations for EU-US trade and investment agreement, do not properly declare these activities.