Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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Lobbying to kill off Robin Hood

Big banks and financial companies are doing their best to stop the introduction of a financial transaction tax (FTT) in the European Union. A proposal for an FTT is on the table, but still has to be approved by the Council. The industry has put all its lobbying machinery to work, implementing a scaremongering strategy, to convince member states to reject the tax. There is a real risk that their lobbying will pay off, either by defeating the entire idea of taxing transactions, or by watering down an already timid proposal.

A financial transactions tax, commonly dubbed a “Robin Hood tax”, is a simple tax on all  financial transactions. Since the ATTAC-movement and the tax justice movement picked up the issue more than a decade ago, the popularity of the idea has grown steadily. It now looks as though it might be possible to introduce such a tax in a large area in Europe. Many groups have called for such a tax to be introduced at a global level in order to collect money for development or for the fight against climate change.



The EU's proposal does not have such global ambitions, but is  intended  to discourage speculation and create a new revenue stream. At a time when citizens are keen for the financial sector to contribute to the costs of the crisis, some European leaders have started to push for an FTT at an EU level. The European Parliament has also pledged its support and the Commission, which was previously reluctant, has finally put a proposal on the table.



Throughout all this process, big banks and financial companies have been lobbying hard to try to stop the FTT or at least water it down. There is a lot of money at stake, so they are using all their tools: privileged access to the political powers, threats to relocate, scaremongering and the selective use of data... And although it may seem that they are losing the battle, the war is not over yet.  The FTT still needs to be approved by the Council.



The industry has been lobbying, not only in the EU, but also at the national level, to convince member states to reject a financial transactions tax. Some governments have already declared whose side they are. The UK  stated early on that it would veto the proposals and Sweden  is also opposed. Some Eurozone countries, such as Ireland  and The Netherlands are also reluctant, while France and Germany have become its main champions, and together with seven other EU countries, including Spain, Belgium and Greece, have signed a letter to the Danish EU presidency in support.



Nothing has yet been decided, but with this division it seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached, either at the EU or at the Eurozone level. Some voices are already calling for alternatives and it is becoming more and more likely that a watered down tax may be put forward, perhaps a little like the stamp duty reserve tax in the UK, which is a tax on shares, but not a real transaction tax. Campaigners say this would be a lost opportunity to make real change in order to curb speculation and regulate a dangerously deregulated financial sector which led the EU to the current crisis.

Read the full report below.

Attached files: 
A financial transactions tax, commonly dubbed a “Robin Hood tax”, is a simple tax on all  financial transactions. Since the ATTAC-movement and the tax justice movement picked up the issue more than a decade ago, the popularity of the idea has grown steadily. It now looks as though it might be possible to introduce such a tax in a large area in Europe. Many groups have called for such a tax to be introduced at a global level in order to collect money for development or for the fight against climate change.The EU's proposal does not have such global ambitions, but is  intended  to discourage speculation and create a new revenue stream. At a time when citizens are keen for the financial sector to contribute to the costs of the crisis, some European leaders have started to push for an FTT at an EU level. The European Parliament has also pledged its support and the Commission, which was previously reluctant, has finally put a proposal on the table.Throughout all this process, big banks and financial companies have been lobbying hard to try to stop the FTT or at least water it down. There is a lot of money at stake, so they are using all their tools: privileged access to the political powers, threats to relocate, scaremongering and the selective use of data... And although it may seem that they are losing the battle, the war is not over yet.  The FTT still needs to be approved by the Council.The industry has been lobbying, not only in the EU, but also at the national level, to convince member states to reject a financial transactions tax. Some governments have already declared whose side they are. The UK  stated early on that it would veto the proposals and Sweden  is also opposed. Some Eurozone countries, such as Ireland  and The Netherlands are also reluctant, while France and Germany have become its main champions, and together with seven other EU countries, including Spain, Belgium and Greece, have signed a letter to the Danish EU presidency in support.Nothing has yet been decided, but with this division it seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached, either at the EU or at the Eurozone level. Some voices are already calling for alternatives and it is becoming more and more likely that a watered down tax may be put forward, perhaps a little like the stamp duty reserve tax in the UK, which is a tax on shares, but not a real transaction tax. Campaigners say this would be a lost opportunity to make real change in order to curb speculation and regulate a dangerously deregulated financial sector which led the EU to the current crisis.Read the full report below.
 

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

In the run up to the UK referendum on EU membership on 23 June, Corporate Europe Observatory has tabled a series of freedom of information requests to find out how UK finance lobbies have been influencing the referendum negotiations and the Capital Markets Union. But the Brexit-Bremain referendum seems to be a freedom of information black hole.

The UK financial sector spends at least €34 million per year on lobbying in Brussels and employs more than 140 lobbyists to influence EU policy-making, according to a study published today by Corporate Europe Observatory. From December 2014 to May 2016, UK financial sector lobbyists had 228 lobby encounters with elite European Commission officials.

This summer Greece's financial authorities fined 20 hedge funds for speculating against the Greek economy. Now, the main global lobby group for hedge funds is trying to tweak the EU's rules so they can have a free play in the future.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour