Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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Hunger brokers

The Commission recently put forward a proposal to curb the lethal volatility in food prices by addressing speculation. But preparations of new legislation have been dominated by the financial lobby, and they've had an impact. Effective measures seem far away.

Before taking office in early 2010, the Single Market Commissioner Michel Barnier told a cross interrogation in the European Parliament that in order to stop the 'scandalous speculation in agricultural commodities, 'we as responsible politicians have to regulate derivatives very carefully. Despite this, when the Commission presented its proposal in October 2011 for a review of the “Markets in Financial-Instruments Directive” (MiFID) the level of ambition was significantly lower than US law, and will not, as it stands, do much to address the lethal volatility of agricultural commodity prices.

Why are ambitions so low? A look at the way the proposal was prepared provides some indications. It reveals a long standing problem at the Commission: that regulatory reform is mainly dealt with through interactions with the financial sector. A tradition that is always exploited effectively by the financial lobby that commands tremendous resources.

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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.

Murky channels for corporate influence in the European Parliament.
Civil society groups denounce the Commission's plan for a Capital Markets Union. No lesson has been learnt from the financial crisis, they say.
The investment bank Goldman Sachs has revised its registration in the EU's lobby transparency register and has substantially increased its declared lobby spend from the 2013 figure of less than €50,000 to €700,000-€799,999 for 2014. This compounds Corporate Europe Observatory's view that Goldman Sachs' original registration was not a full reflection of its EU lobbying activity. Yet despite this under-reporting, for five months the register secretariat took little action and Goldman Sachs was able to secure at least four meetings with top Commission officials.

Corporate Europe Observatory is looking for an experienced campaigner to join our team and strengthen our work on exposing and challenging corporate lobbying capture of EU decision-making. Please respond before Wednesday May 18th 2016. The position is based in Brussels, in our office in the Mundo-B building in Brussels. Starting date July 1st 2016 (a later start date can be discussed).

You would be part of the 'lobbyocracy' team within CEO, covering issues including the corporate capture of advisory groups, lobbying secrecy, etc.

Splits occur within European Commission, as European Parliament, Ombudsman and NGOs increase the pressure for implementing UN rules for contacts with tobacco industry lobbyists.

The European Commission has shelved a legal opinion confirming that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) produced through gene-editing and other new techniques fall under EU GMO law, following pressure from the US government. A series of internal Commission documents obtained under freedom of information rules reveal intense lobbying by US representatives for the EU to disregard its GMO rules, which require safety testing and labelling.

It's make or break for the European Commission's advisory groups, known formally as Expert Groups. First Vice President Frans Timmermans, the man in charge of transparency, plans to bring out new horizontal rules to make the groups more balanced and more accountable in a matter of weeks, but will he listen to the concerns of the public?

The corporate lobby tour

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