Documentary reveals car lobby perks for MEPs

An interesting documentary on Dutch television yesterday showed the massive influence of the car lobby in EU capital Brussels. The car lobby uses a range of different tactics, including some that come close to influence peddling. MEP Malcolm Harbour, who has a strong say in Parliamentary decision-making on environmental standards for cars, routinely borrows luxurious new cars for 'test-drives', accepts invitations to attend grandprix racing events and other treats courtesy of the car industry. For details, see also the entry about Malcolm Harbour on the MEPedia website. Mr. Harbour (a former car designer) claims he needs to understand the latest technology.

The documentary revealed that it is very common both for Commission officials and MEPs to buy cars at reduced rate. Every major car brand has a special 'diplomatic sales' branch in Brussels offering 20-25% discounts exclusively for MEPs and other EU officials. This has been going on for decades. Here's an example of FIAT's 'diplomatic sales' website:

The influence of the car lobby became very clear when Enterprise Commissioner Günter Verheugen, Ari Vatanen MEP (former rally driver), Malcolm Harbour MEP, and MEP Herman de Croo, who chairs the European Transport Safety Council were interviewed about car safety standards. Asked whether the car industry should be obliged to use the best available technology in order to reduce accidents and mortality rates, all of these influential players repeated the 'integrated approach' mantra promoted by the car lobbies.

To steer free from stricter car safety regulations, lobbyists have successfully convinced EU decision-makers that driving behaviour, trees next to roads and other infrastructure are as important factors. Important as they may be, these are matters which MEPs have no power over as they are controlled at member state level The result: preserving the status quo.

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