Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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No apologies for serving business

DG Trade: No apologies for giving privileged access to businessDirector General of DG Trade admits that he grants business privileged accessDirector General of DG Trade admits that he grants business privileged access

During one of DG Trade's recent meetings with civil society, I raised CEO's concerns about the privileged access given to big business interests by the Commission when developing trade policy. The reply from Director General, David O'Sullivan, was surprisingly frank.

He admitted that while his door was open to NGOs and he had never refused a meeting with one, he had “indeed made efforts to have more contacts with business”. As a result, “industry walks through that door more often than others,” he said. “I do not apologise for that, this is the way it's going to be.” Because according to O'Sullivan, trade is about industry.

And once business has walked through the Commission's door? In a letter to CEO, dated 15 June, the Commission's Secretary General admitted that EU officials “test the state of play of the negotiations with relevant industry sectors”. This involves “sharing certain elements of information concerning the negotiations”, but of course only “in return of a commitment from the participants to respect the confidentiality of the information received”.

In short: DG Trade listens more to business than to public interest groups. It shares confidential information about ongoing trade negotiations with a select group of industry lobbyists – information that it regularly withholds from CEO and other public interest groups in replies to access to information requests. And DG Trade thinks that this is the way it should be and will continue to be.

Is that the case? Not if the Commission is serious about its own staff regulations, which state that officials must "refrain from any unauthorised disclosure of information received in the line of duty" unless it is already in the public domain. And not if it takes its standards for consultations seriously, according to which it should neither grant privileged access to particular groups nor listen to only one side of the argument.

European trade policy constitutes no exception to the general need for EU policies that reflect the wider interests of society and not just the agenda of big business. Because EU trade policy is as much about industry as it is about consumers, farmers, workers, the environment and development perspectives – in Europe and in the South.

During one of DG Trade's recent meetings with civil society, I raised CEO's concerns about the privileged access given to big business interests by the Commission when developing trade policy. The reply from Director General, David O'Sullivan, was surprisingly frank. He admitted that while his door was open to NGOs and he had never refused a meeting with one, he had “indeed made efforts to have more contacts with business”. As a result, “industry walks through that door more often than others,” he said. “I do not apologise for that, this is the way it's going to be.” Because according to O'Sullivan, trade is about industry. And once business has walked through the Commission's door? In a letter to CEO, dated 15 June, the Commission's Secretary General admitted that EU officials “test the state of play of the negotiations with relevant industry sectors”. This involves “sharing certain elements of information concerning the negotiations”, but of course only “in return of a commitment from the participants to respect the confidentiality of the information received”. In short: DG Trade listens more to business than to public interest groups. It shares confidential information about ongoing trade negotiations with a select group of industry lobbyists – information that it regularly withholds from CEO and other public interest groups in replies to access to information requests. And DG Trade thinks that this is the way it should be and will continue to be. Is that the case? Not if the Commission is serious about its own staff regulations, which state that officials must "refrain from any unauthorised disclosure of information received in the line of duty" unless it is already in the public domain. And not if it takes its standards for consultations seriously, according to which it should neither grant privileged access to particular groups nor listen to only one side of the argument. European trade policy constitutes no exception to the general need for EU policies that reflect the wider interests of society and not just the agenda of big business. Because EU trade policy is as much about industry as it is about consumers, farmers, workers, the environment and development perspectives – in Europe and in the South.
 

A deregulation agenda is sweeping through the Commission & member states, particularly pushed by the UK.

The recent leak of many parts of TTIP, allowing us for the first time to read the negotiating position of the US, confirms our most serious concerns.

Dangerous attacks against regulations protecting public interest wouldn't be prevented by 'new' proposals.

Despite growing concerns among the European public, the new EU proposal on regulatory cooperation in TTIP does nothing to address the upcoming democratic threats.

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.

Never before has a former European Commission official been criticised as much for his post-EU career as ex-Commission president Barroso upon joining infamous US investment bank Goldman Sachs this summer. Citizens are outraged and evidence already points towards a gross violation of the EU Treaty.

Following the high-level appointment of former European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to Goldman Sachs, NGOs have launched a petition demanding stricter rules for ex-EU commissioners’ revolving door moves.

Corporate Europe Observatory's new report 'A spoonful of sugar' illustrates how the sugar lobby undermines existing laws and fights off much-needed measures that are vital for tackling Europe’s looming obesity crisis.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour