This cartoon shows an office and a desk labelled “Von der Leyen” with an in-tray. Near the desk on the floor is a waste paper bin labelled “out” and inside and around it we see crumpled papers “REACH reforms”, “pesticide reduction”, “export bans”. On the wall behind the desk is an EU flag. There is also a calendar which highlights the EP elections in June and the new Commission in November.

Commitments to deliver an export ban on already banned substances, revision of REACH, and pesticide reduction targets have already been binned by the Commission. What will follow?

By @CartoonRalph

"Industrial Deal" under fire: NGOs demand EU focus on public interest over corporate capture

Tomorrow European and member state leaders will be gathering to decide on the new EU strategic agenda for the next five years. Civil society organisations across Europe and beyond are calling for real political solutions to the multiple crises people face.

In February 2024, big polluting corporations, led by the chemicals lobby group CEFIC, launched the EU' Industrial Deal', or 'Antwerp Declaration', pushing for business-friendly EU decision-making. It was launched behind closed doors in the presence of Commission President von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister De Croo. The Antwerp Declaration runs alongside other initiatives by BusinessEurope and the European Round Table for Industry, echoing this approach. 

"The industry promotion of this agenda comes after the same lobbies successfully sabotaged a range of important legislative proposals that were desperately needed to protect nature, biodiversity, and public health", states an open letter released today and signed by 110+ civil society organisations urging the EU to abandon this Industrial Deal agenda and adopt an agenda that prioritises people and the environment.

Addressing EU and member state leaders, ministers, and parliamentarians, the letter criticises the following corporate demands at the core of the Antwerp Declaration:

  • Getting access to more public money including to promote false solutions to the climate crisis including hydrogen and carbon capture.
  • Far-reaching and speedy deregulation under the guise of ‘competitiveness’ and ‘innovation', including the risk of rolling back existing social and green rules and undermining the development and implementation of effective regulations in the future.
  • ‘Completing’ the single market with stronger enforcement to enable corporations and the European Commission to block much-needed bold plans for a social and green transition at the national and municipal levels.
  • More ‘free trade’ and other measures to secure ever more raw materials and energy supplies, despite the impacts on global south countries.
  • The implementation of forums and dialogues with industry-biased membership and no public accountability mechanisms to secure business-friendly EU decision-making.

Instead, civil society organisations call for measures including the redistribution of wealth to invest in public services and to create a meaningful Just Transition for all workers; reshaping the EU and member state economies towards decent work, fairness, safe products and real sustainability; reclaiming regulation as a tool to protect people and the planet; and new rules to protect decision-making from corporate interference.

Vicky Cann, Corporate Europe Observatory campaigner, says:

 “In the coming days, it's vital that EU and member state leaders do not give in to this huge lobby campaign designed by some of Europe's biggest polluters. 

Corporate profiteering and polluting must not be rewarded. Instead, political leaders must prioritise urgent  action on the cost of living and ecological crises and put people and the environment first."


For media inquiries, please contact

Vicky Cann, Corporate Europe Observatory researcher and campaigner

0044 7960 988096

Marcella Via, Corporate Europe Observatory press officer

0039 348 4201435

Notes to editor

  • You can read the open letter and see the full list of signatory organisations here. The letter is also available at this link in Danish, Croatian, Spanish, and Greek.
  • In February 2024, more than 70 civil society organisations sent an open letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in response to the Antwerp Declaration, demanding an end to privileged access for polluting industries and ambitious action on the toxic pollution, biodiversity, and climate crises. 

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