When big business comes across EU climate targets it instinctively reaches for its big guns, unleashing CEOs and a volley of lobbyists in an attempt to avoid substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The first six months of 2011 have seen the latest round of this contest, with two policy initiatives re-opening the debate on European reduction targets. A new EP report, calling upon the EU to raise its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 20 to 30 per cent, will be voted on at the 23 June plenary session of the European Parliament. This is a step in the right direction, although it still falls well short of what is needed to tackle climate change.
New research by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has found that 11 out of the 20 experts on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel on food additives (ANS) have a conflict of interest, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Lisbon Treaty, introduced in 2009, substantially increased the Parliament’s legislative power, making MEPs even more attractive to consultancy firms. The Parliament can now accept, amend or reject the content of European legislation that affects every European – making its decision makers worth knowing.
Its new powers mean that greater scrutiny, transparency and accountability are required to minimize any potential conflict of interest and corruption.
Next week, MEPs are due to vote on a report from the Parliament’s international trade committee (INTA) about Europe’s international investment policy – giving guidelines for the rights of foreign investors under future EU trade deals. The vote follows fierce attempts by law firms, industry and member states to enshrine the right of foreign investors to challenge national laws that affect their profits. As a result, European member states could soon find domestic laws challenged by foreign companies – and politicians will have no powers to intervene.
The Euro Pact is a major step towards a corporate model of economic governance in the European Union, which will result in a major attack on social rights and living standards. So far, it looks like the big business lobby is winning the policy battle, at the expense of the rest of society.
Using the pretext of the “euro crisis”, the European Commission and the Council have put forward proposals to give the EU new powers to deal with core welfare issues, including social benefits and wages, under a new technocratic procedure. There is an urgent need for a democratic debate throughout the EU, in particular on alternatives to the austere neoliberal model of ‘economic governance’ that is now being pushed by the Commission and the Council. And it will require a broad-based social struggle to make the alternatives a reality.
Corporate Europe Observatory
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.