Lobbying under the radar continues: MEP-industry forums still avoid scrutiny
Murky channels for corporate influence in the European Parliament, which have run into controversy time after time, continue to escape serious measures. The unmitigated dangers posed by unofficial cross-party groups of MEPs and industry are a stark illustration of continued lobbying under the radar. Often playing a similar role to the Parliament's official intergroups,1 MEP-industry forums are platforms that connect MEPs and “interested stakeholders” (predominantly industry representatives) to meet and discuss specific issues. What differentiates the two is that MEP-industry forums – as unofficial cross-party groups - are not subject to the same transparency rules and safeguards as official intergroups. In fact, they are not subject to any rules at all, and can keep their members, funding and even existence hidden from public view.
In 2011, CEO published a snapshot analysis of 15 MEP-industry forums, warning that an unknown number of others may exist. “Lobbying Under the Radar” showed how these cross-party groups were heavily dominated by corporate interests, and acted as unscrutinised opportunities for industry lobbying, characterized by an overall lack of transparency. Controversial forums highlighted included the European Internet Forum, and the undue influence of digital industry giants that it facilitated, and the Kangaroo Group, one of the oldest and most influential forums which has given alarming inside access to the defence and tobacco industries. These and other MEP-industry forums were heralded by one Brussels lobbyist as great time-savers: “Instead of going to one MEP at a time, we can hit a whole group at once with our arguments.” Former Commission President Barroso, at a cocktail event hosted by one such group, described how these “forums represent important European economic interests. It is our duty to listen to the different economic sectors because it is these sectors which create jobs in Europe”. A high-level endorsement for these opaque industry-lobbying vehicles.
Four years on and MEP-industry forums remain active and unregulated. As well as a failure to act on these shadowy platforms for corporate influence, the transparency rules for the Parliament's official intergroups are poorly implemented and even ignored. Stricter and better implemented rules are urgently needed for both the Parliament's official intergroups and their murkier cousins, the MEP-industry forums. CEO has found that all 15 MEP-industry forums we looked at in 2011 still appear to be active (or have been active in the last year or so), with at least four more identified,2 and who knows how many more we are unaware of. Their focus ranges from energy, manufacturing and security to digital affairs, alcohol and transport. Most were set-up, are administered by, or are heavily influenced by corporate lobbyists or industry representatives.
Table 1 MEP-Industry Forums: Who's holding the reins?
Who do their corporate backers include?
Are they in Transparency Register? (as of 1 Oct 2015)
Do they disclose meaningful information (members, finances etc)?
Arctic Forum Foundation
Statoil, Shell and ENI Norway
Doesn't disclose all members or financial info
European Energy Forum (EEF)
BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Statoil, Total, Chevron, EDF, Euracoal, CEEP, Dow, CEFIC
European Forum for Manufacturing (EFM)
Volvo, Alstom, Caterpillar, Siemens, AFME, CEFIC
European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES)
Bosch, European Biomass Association, European Copper Institute, European Wind Energy Association
European Internet Forum (EIF)
Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Vodafone, Nokia, Disney
European Life Sciences Circle
No. Unclear if active since 2010.
European Parliament Beer Club
Secretariat is the Brewers of Europe, otherwise unknown
Doesn't disclose corporate members or financial info
European Parliament Ceramics Forum (EPCF)
Ceramics lobby Cerame-Unie is a member, otherwise unknown
Doesn't disclose corporate members or financial info
European Parliament Gypsum Forum (EPGF)
Secretariat is the plaster and plasterboard lobby Eurogypsum, otherwise unknown
Doesn't disclose corporate members or financial info
European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum (EPFSF)
Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, ING, Lloyds, RBS
JP Morgan, Fidelity Worldwide Investment, Association of German Banks, European Private Equity & Venture Capital Association
Doesn't disclose all members
Forum for Mobility and Society (FMS)
BMW, Michelin, Honda, Goodyear Dunlop, FIA
Forum in the European Parliament for Construction (FOCOPE)
No (but was previously)
No. Unclear if active since 2011 (inactive website, but other orgs list membership of FOCOPE in TR)
GLOBE-EU (BEE Group)
Cemex, Dow, Holcim, Suez Environnement, Michelin, Unilever
GLOBE Europe is, but not GLOBE-EU, which appear to be distinct
Doesn't disclose all members or financial info
Volvo, Phillip Morris, BAT, Deutsche Bank, BP, ACEA, CEFIC, Unilver, Roche
Knowledge for Innovation (K4I) Forum
Eli Lilly, Nokia, Omnitel, CEFIC, ECPA, EuropaBio, GERG
Land use and Food Policy Intergroup (LUFPIG)
No. Doesn't disclose members/ activities/ financial info
Rail Forum Intergroup
Alstom Transport, GDF Suez, Siemens Mobility, Veolia Transdev
Doesn't disclose financial info
Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN)
Deutsche Bank, BASF, Microsoft, Syngenta, Coca-Cola, Facebook, HSBC, Daimler, BP
Many forums do not disclose their corporate membership or funding information. And whilst some are listed in the Transparency Register, there is no uniformity over what category they register under, and - partly as a result of this - the financial information they declare is frequently too vague. Those that do disclose their revenue sources appear to be mostly financed by their corporate members or sponsors. And whilst some of the cross-party groups claim to welcome civil society organizations, closer analysis reveals negligible or non-existent participation of trade unions or consumer rights organizations.
Despite all of this, MEPs' participation in these industry-dominated forums is not typically seen as a conflict of interest, even when MEPs take positions similar to those of the forums' corporate members. Some forums quite blatantly publicize the privileged access to key policy-makers that they can provide to their members, and the influence they can have on legislation. Several forums go so far as to use the European Parliament's official logo, name and address on their materials to create the appearance of being official EU bodies - even though this misappropriation is strictly forbidden for the Parliament's official Intergroups.
Below we take a look at a sample of these groups active in several high-stakes policy areas:
climate and energy - with the high-profile UN climate talks in Paris coming up this December, and negotiations underway on the EU's proposed Energy Union, influencing the EU's positions on climate and energy has been high on the industry agenda;
financial regulation - post-crisis attempts at financial and economic regulation have all too often followed advice from financial industry players, punishing the victims rather than the perpetrators;
trade policy - in light of troubling trade talks like TTIP and CETA, which threaten our democracies, our environmental and social protection laws, and risk handing more power to corporations.
All three are major targets for corporate lobbies keen to weaken, delay or subvert public-interest policy-making that might eat into their profits.
Back-door for dirty energy
There are a number of MEP-industry forums that spell danger for EU energy and climate policy:
European Energy Forum (EEF): EEF describes its events as providing “a place for discussion where EU actors in the energy sector can meet, get informed and debate and where all points of views and ideas are welcome”. EEF has 32 MEP members including its Chair, former European Parliament President and very influential (but no friend of the climate) Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek - who is now the Chair of the Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). Outspoken climate change denier Roger Helmer, a British UKIP MEP, is also a director of the group. EEF also has 81 associate members - “companies, research organisations, associations and regulators who take an interest in energy-related problems” - but the vast majority of these are major fossil fuel companies.
These fee-paying (a minimum of €7000 per year) corporate members include Statoil, Total, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, E.ON, Chevron, EDF, Wintershall and PGNiG, as well as dirty energy lobby groups like FuelsEurope, Euracoal and Central Europe Energy Partners (CEEP). The chemicals sector – well known for its anti-climate legislation lobbying - is also represented by the likes of Dow, CEFIC and Fertilizers Europe. No consumer or environmental groups are represented, and dirty energy companies vastly outnumber the one or two renewable energy groups. In its Transparency Register entry, EEF declares EU lobby expenditure of €366,270 in 2013, but it fails to reveal the source of this money, other than that it is “a membership driven association”. Since MEP members only pay a €15 annual fee, this lobbying is clearly funded primarily by its dirty energy members.3
So what does this energy industry Trojan horse get up to? Its busy event calendar includes dinner and lunch debates, receptions, info bulletins and MEP assistant briefings, many of which are “hosted by” a particular EEF corporate member. EEF boasts that its events are attended by key players in the energy sector including “MEPs (especially ITRE and ENVI Committees), European Parliament political groups secretariats, European Commission officials, permanent representations, Council of Europe representatives”. All its discussions are held under Chatham House Rules, to encourage openness “without disclosing the identity or affiliation of the source of the information and without disclosing the identity of other participants.”
In 2015, EEF's corporate sponsored events have included a Strasbourg dinner debate 'Oil and Gas: Geopolitics of Europe and beyond' hosted by BP in April. In the presence of MEPs (e.g. Jerzy Buzek) and Commission officials (including a high-level DG Energy speaker), dirty energy giant BP gave a presentation showing large quantities of “technically recoverable shale gas and tight oil” in Europe, and promoted gas as top priority for EU energy policy. This is a view that has been picked up in EU policy - for example, gas is a major focus of the Energy Union. In March, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) – whose members include major fossil fuel companies and producers – sponsored an EEF dinner debate focusing on offshore oil production and oil sands. IOGP's presentation advised that the EU's energy security strategy prioritise shale gas, and maximise indigenous “conventional and unconventional” energy production. It cited barriers to fossil energy exploration in Europe including “bureaucracy” and EU regulation, with the explicit demand to “Stop new additional regulations: Hydrocarbon BREF, LCP BREF, MCPD, Financial responsibility”. IOGP also called for the “Recognition of the Role of Oil &Gas to avoid emotional debates”!
Despite EEF's clear business-as-usual and to-hell-with-the-consequences energy bias, its legitimacy has been accepted at a worryingly high-level. In March 2015 EEF hosted an “evening discussion with Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union”. Access to an important Commissioner for all its dirty energy members. But EEF doesn't only target the highest-level policy-makers. One of its cleverest lobby strategies is to influence MEPs' assistants – who often advise and shape the policy positions of MEPs – in briefings at the European Parliament.
For example, in July 2015 EEF hosted an MEP assistant briefing entitled 'Integrating larger shares of RES into the power system: market perspectives'. An innocent sounding title to many, apparently about increasing use of renewable energy, but EEF's presentation reveals otherwise. In a slide about improving the electricity market design (which has been a big target for corporate lobbies) as a solution for renewable energy integration, EEF presents so-called “basic conditions” that any such policy must follow: it must be technology neutral, market-based and open to cross-border participants. This could rule out local, community-owned renewable energy projects, or government subsidies for renewables development. The industry favourite term “technology neutral” would mean no policy-influence over the types of renewable energy being developed, leaving the doors open to mass use of biofuels, thereby fuelling hunger, land grabs and indirect emissions. These are not neutral premises, but ideological lobby positions designed to protect the interests of an industry whose business is to trash the climate.
EEF has repeatedly run into controversy, but each time manages to ride the storm and continue as if nothing happened. In 2011, former Swedish MEP Lena Ek faced a scandal when she failed to sever ties with EEF after being appointed as Sweden's Environment minister, with concerns expressed over her “very close ties to the nuclear and oil lobby” via EEF. In May 2013, a controversial pro-agrofuels luxury "fact-finding mission" to Malaysia was sponsored by Neste Oil, Europe's biggest palm oil importer, who paid for MEPs' accommodation and meals. One EEF MEP on the lobby-holiday wrote a pro-agrofuels parliamentary report shortly afterwards. The report advised against crucial environmental measures around indirect land-use change, a major driver of deforestation (ie when agrofuel plantations displace food crops). Despite EEF flagrantly enabling dirty energy companies to wine, dine, and influence MEPs, it continues to do its business with impunity. For example, on 17-18 September 2015 EEF organised an MEP visit to Finland sponsored by the very same petroleum and biodiesel company, Neste. History repeating itself, the visit promoted biofuels as a transport fuel, including “a high level dinner and the visit of the first large-scale commercial renewable diesel refinery”!
Forum for Mobility and Society (FMS): FMS is part of the car industry´s multifaceted lobbying machine in Brussels, which according to CEO's new factsheet involves spending of over €18 million in 2014 to influence Brussels decision-making. In the context of the ongoing Volkswagen diesel emissions rigging scandal, the car industry's Parliamentary forum FMS (formerly the Forum for the Automobile and Society) merits very close scrutiny. Its founding members include car lobby group ACEA (members VW, BMW, Volvo, Renault, Ford, Toyota etc) which fought tirelessly against higher EU vehicle emissions targets, puts competitiveness before climate, and in June this year claimed that there is “No justification for discriminating against modern diesel technology”! No justification except for diesel's carcinogenic fumes and their contribution to thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, and the despicable deception over the levels of harmful NOx emissions from the 'modern diesel technology' of one or more major European car company!? FMS' corporate members include BMW, Michelin, Honda and Goodyear Dunlop. Ten MEPs (including three from Germany, which is the engine of Europe's car industry, home of VW, and known for its close relationship between the autoindustry and political elites) are named as political members on its website. Its Transpareny Register entry reveals that its 2014 €95,000 budget came entirely from member contributions – but no further details can be found either in the lobby register or on its own website. CEO research in 2011 revealed that some MEP members had tabled specific amendments to legislation based on car industry demands. Of today's 10 MEP members, half are members of the Parliament's Transport Committee (including two Vice Chairs, two members and one substitute), several of whom have taken positions or tabled amendments that clearly favour – and often echo rhetoric or demands of - the auto-industry, as demonstrated below:
Dutch EPP MEP Wim van der Camp was Rapporteur on the July 2015 REPORT on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on Transport: taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility. The report emphasises that improving the sustainability of the transport sector must avoid “sacrificing its competitiveness”, as well as promoting biofuels (which drive hunger and land grabs) as a way to reduce transports' emissions – two car industry favourites. His personal amendments to the draft report included watering down scrutiny over implementation of the Transport White Paper goals (e.g. including progress on emissions reductions), changing the requirement for the Commission to report annually on implementation to only once every five years! (Am.625);
UK ECR MEP Jacqueline Foster has spoken out in a Parliamentary debate against the “unnecessary creation of a new European road safety transport agency”, and in an amendment to the draft report on the Transport White Paper implementation added “clean diesel” to a list of “alternative” transport fuels (Am.463);
French ALDE MEP Dominique Riquet is Vice-Chair of the Transport committee and a Co-Chair of FMS – his amendments to the same draft report included adding vehicles powered by natural gas and biofuels to a list of those that should be promoted (Am.222), plus demanded more funding to the transport sector for R&D (Am.374).
Another of FMS' Co-Chairs is European Parliament Vice President and Romanian EPP MEP Adina-Ioana Vãlean. At an April 2015 FSM lunch debate on Cars 2020, Vãlean “stressed the need to focus transport policies on economic competitiveness rather than increasing the number of environmental regulations”. The fact that so many FSM members appear to be promoting the car industry's interests in our laws – regardless of the impact on climate, environment or health – is the kind of ongoing scandal upon which scandals like VWGate or “Dieselgate" are built. The Forum for Mobility and Society is providing the car industry with privileged access and undue influence. This cosy relationship between regulators and regulated is at the heart of why supposedly public-interest law-making, regulation and policy-implementation so often falls short of what is needed to protect people and planet... but protects profit.
EU Arctic Forum: The EU Arctic Forum is one of three branches of the Arctic Forum Foundation, which presents itself as a bridge builder “for Arctic-focused actors from politics, science, civil society and business”. The Arctic Forum Foundation does not disclose a list of members, but it lists five MEPs on its advisory council, including Michael Gahler, who was rapporteur for the Report on a Sustainable EU Policy for the High North (the Arctic report). This report took the approach that melting Arctic ice caps present economic opportunities (oil exploration, mineral extraction, shipping routes etc) whose risks can be mitigated. But no “development” of the Arctic can be sustainable, for it is one of the most pristine and fragile environments on earth. And since 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to avoid a 2 degree global temperature rise, exploring for new reserves in the Arctic is totally at odds with the EU's climate commitments!
No information on the forum's funding is available, and it has not signed up to the lobby register. However, its listed 'Partners, Participants and Friends' include energy firms Statoil, Shell and ENI Norway – companies which have (or have had) a commercial interest in opening up the Arctic for oil drilling. This agenda – of dirty energy extraction and other commercial activities (read: profits) at the expense of a fragile environment and our global climate – is one that seems to be shared by the EU Arctic Forum. Its founder and Secretary General Steffen Weber (formerly an European Parliamentary adviser on the Arctic report) spoke at the Russia 2013 Offshore conference, alongside the likes of BP, Gazprom and Total – more fossil fuel companies eager to get their paws on Arctic oil. Indeed, the event focused partly on the exploitation of offshore gas and oil fields in the Arctic. The EU Arctic Forum has organised seminars and briefings in Brussels, bringing officials and industry together, but the lack of transparency requirements for groups like this mean it is unclear how active the forum currently is, with record of its publications and events petering out over the last year or so.4
And more! There are various other MEP-industry forums that relate to energy, climate and environmental issues, including several about which very little information is available. For example, neither Land use and food policy Intergroup (LUFPIG) or GLOBE-EU disclose full lists of members.
Cross-sectoral forums such as Knowledge for Innovation (K4I) Forum have also been shown by CEO to hold events promoting the interests of polluting industry. With very close ties (or even crossover with) specialised Brussels-events lobby consultancy Strauss & Partners,K4I hosted a gas-lobby dinner debate in November 2014. One of many K4I events with implications for climate change, this event was part of the European Innovation Summit and was co-organised with the European Gas Research Group (GERG). GERG is a pro-gas lobby group whose members include energy giants Shell, E.ON, RWE and Statoil, and which has not signed-up to the Transparency Register. The debate covered the role of gas smart grids in Europe's energy future, one of GERG's major lobby topics, including demanding a prominent role for gas in EU energy policy and EU support for “natural gas-related R&D”.
Alongside GERG, K4I's members include anti-climate chemicals industry lobby CEFIC (representing companies like Dow, BASF, BP and the chemicals arms of ExxonMobil, Shell and Total), plus biotech lobby EuropaBio and agroindustry group the European Crop Protection Association (both of whose members include Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF). 32 MEPs (as of 24/09/15) are also members, with Jerzy Buzek once again an influential presence, as Vice Chair of K4I's governing board. K4I's regular breakfasts feed more than the appetites of MEPs – they feed into and help shape the political agenda, boosting the influence of the industry lobby groups behind K4I through semi-systematic and highly privileged access to MEPs. K4I itself advertises the benefits of membership as including “direct access to key MEPs”, offering “an efficient channel to convey your message on complicated issues”, organising “your own events in the Parliament” and being part of “an exclusive community” whose events are attended “by high-level European Commission officials, key MEPs and Council Presidency representatives”!
Financial sector schmoozing
The firepower of the financial sector lobby is enormous, as CEO has previously exposed. MEP-industry forums are one of the less visible means through which it exerts influence.
European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum (EPFSF): EPFSF claims to facilitate and strengthen “the exchange of information on financial services and Europe's financial markets between the financial industry and Members of the European Parliament.” Its Steering Committee is composed of 47 MEPs, selected by the “large number” of MEPs active in EPFSF events. EPFSF also has 58 financial industry members including major banks Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, ING Group, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Other companies, such as insurance firms and professional services giants like Deloitte, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, are also represented. EPFSF has a Financial Industry Committee (whose members are not disclosed) which is tasked with inputting on the programme of events, providing speakers and assisting in drafting briefing papers. Its activities are financed by annual contributions from its corporate members – in 2014, this was €8,000 per member. Financial industry non-members can attend EPFSF's events on a pay-per-meeting basis for €200, cash-for-access if you like.
According to EPFSF's lobby register entry (as of 26/08/15), it had an EU lobby expenditure of €300,000 to € 399,999 in 2014. But it also insists that it is “not a lobbying organisation”, that it includes “consumer representatives and other stakeholders” in events, and that its briefing papers are “as neutral and informative as possible”. EPFSF does indeed list five consumer/end-user groups on its website, which it states it invites to join events as observers. These include European consumer organisation BEUC and public-interest financial group FinanceWatch. Yet its (industry-funded) events are still heavily dominated (and sometimes entirely comprised of) financial industry actors. This imbalance has a long history in EPFSF events (see our 2011 report).
Recent examples include a July 2015 lunch event on "International/Transatlantic regulation of cross-border business" which had guest speakers from banks Société Générale and JP Morgan, insurance industry lobby the International Underwriting Association, financial services group DTCC, securities regulators group the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and the European Commission – but no consumer group. The briefing paper for the event presented a pro-TTIP and pro-financial regulatory convergence position. In the course of the TTIP negotiations, the financial industry on both sides of the Atlantic has found the European Commission to be a close ally. European financial corporations want TTIP to enable them to avert the slightly tougher rules on banks in the US, following a case where Deutsche Bank used all means at their disposal to sidestep US rules. The case is mentioned in the this EPFSF “briefing” as an argument to include rules in TTIP along the lines proposed by the Commission... which in turn were copy-pasted from financial lobby groups, according to the CityUK, another member of the EPFSF. Hardly the neutrality it claims to represent.
Another example, which shows the high-level political embrace of the group, was a special lunch event in June 2015 with Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. The topic was "How financial markets and services can better support economic growth". The Commissioner was joined in a panel discussion by banks BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank, insurance lobby group Insurance Europe, the Netherlands Investment Institute, and just one public interest/financial services user group, Better Finance. The panel was moderated by Burkhard Balz MEP, who is also the Chair of EPFSF' Steering Group and is a member of the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON).
On 30 September 2015 EPFSF held a lunch event on "The overall impact of the legislative proposals in the financial area". Industry dominated the panel, with HSBC, Commerzbank, Schroders Investment Management and KPMG sitting alongside Better Finance. An upcoming lunch event on 18 November shows the same ratio of industry speakers outnumbering public-interest groups by four to one. With the topic "Resolution and the role of the Single Resolution Board", Unicredit, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and Deloitte will be accompanied by Finance Watch.
MEP-assistant training sessions are another part of EPFSF's arsenal of influence, “designed to deliver a deeper understanding of financial markets and services”. For example, in April 2015 EPFSF hosted an afternoon seminar in the European Parliament on the “Economic role of banks in financial intermediation”. The people training our law-makers' assistants on the implications of banking sector reform proposals were, without exception, representatives of major banks whose actions played a systemic role in triggering the financial crisis. Moderated by major lobby group the European Banking Federation, speakers included ING, Deutsche Bank and Société Générale.
Financial Future: Financial Future is a “discussion forum” set-up and led by former MEP and Vice-Chairman of ECON committee John Purvis. The group meets ten times a year to hold debates on “financial policy issues of regulatory concern”, with the aim of improving “mutual understanding of key issues between legislators and the financial services industry”. However, Financial Future does not disclose its members – whether they be legislators or industry. But the group's Advisory Board includes representatives of JP Morgan, Fidelity Worldwide Investment, the Association of German Banks and European Private Equity & Venture Capital Association. According to its lobby register entry (as of 26/08/15), its entire budget comes from member donations, and its website reveals its 2015 membership fees to be €4750.
Nearly one third of Financial Future's Advisory Board (3 of 10) are high-profile revolving-door cases. These include Eddy Wymeersch, who went from being Chair of financial regulatory body the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR – now ESMA) to a senior advisor at major financial lobby group the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME). Another member is former MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi who cashed in on nine years of ECON committee experience to become Managing Director at the Federation of Finnish Financial Services (FFS), which represents major players in Finnish financial services. And John Purvis, a former banker who after 15 years as an MEP went to work for Brussels lobby consultancy Cabinet DN. Cabinet DN undertakes the secretariat functions for Financial Future, a task for which Financial Future paid the firm €100,000 - €199,999 in 2014, according to Cabinet DN's lobby register entry (as of 26/08/15). Yet in Financial Future's own entry the group declares spending less than €9,999 on lobbying (between 08/2013 and 07/2014) – far far less than it pays Cabinet DN.
Financial Future promotes its Brussels events as targeting the relevant Commission unit and Parliamentary rapporteur or shadows, officials from permanent representations, regulators and senior representatives from European companies. It boasts of the opportunity they provide for “informal, enjoyable networking” and that stakeholder exchange at these early stages in the legislative process is more efficient than a series of one-to-one meetings with stakeholders. Its events are held under Chatham House rules, and Financial Future brags that “We prefer to follow regulatory proposals through from “glint-in-eye” to implementation.”
2015 events have included an event on the Capital Markets Union in March with speakers from Deutsche Bank, the London Stock Exchange and the European Commission. June brought an event on Securitisation sponsored by financial lobby group AFME, with MEPs Brian Hayes and Renato Soru, plus speakers from HSBC, Ford Credit Europe, ESMA, the European Commission and the Luxembourg Perm Rep. At a recent event on 22 September “EU financial services and the global markets”, speakers included MEP Neena Gill, HSBC and Euroclear.
Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN): Trojan horse architects of TTIP
TPN describes itself as a network that aims to facilitate “constructive dialogue” and support partnership between business and politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Its website (as of 04/09/15) lists 38 corporate members including Deutsche Bank, BASF, Microsoft, Syngenta and BP, plus 51 MEPs and 32 US senators and congressmen. TPN's 'EU Honorary President' is Peter Sutherland, formerly a European Commissioner, head of World Trade Organisation (WTO) predecessor GATT, director of RBS and non-executive Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Its lobby register entry (as of 04/09/15) reveals its half million euro 2014 EU lobby spend was entirely funded by members. TPN hosts Outreach Roundtables - “informal, high level discussions” - in Brussels and Washington, plus Political and Educational Exchanges between MEPs and Members of Congress.
For over a decade TPN has been an influential insider, lobbying for a “barrier-free” transatlantic market. It has been pre-cooking controversial EU-US trade agreement TTIP – which has dire implications for financial and climate-related legislation - for many years. It claims credit for setting up the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) – a major pro-TTIP big business lobby group – and “is still actively supporting its development.” It hosts an annual 'Transatlantic Week', with this year's event taking place in Washington 21-23 July. But the website about the event is password protected. Patrons of Transatlantic Week included Allianz, Syngenta, Facebook and another industry-MEP forum, the European Internet Forum (EIF). It was attended by US and European Commission officials, Members of Congress and MEPs (including Marietje Schaake and David Martin), plus “representatives from the business, academic and think tank communities on both sides of the Atlantic” - but no civil society or consumer representatives.
The goings-on of these so-called forums for debate are unrecorded and unregulated, positioned beyond the reach of democratic accountability, and in effect serve as an arena and tool for industry lobbying. The fact that the EU Transparency Register requires registrants to declare their membership of both official intergroups and European Parliament “industry fora” shows a recognition of their existence and influence, yet rules for the groups themselves remain non-existent. CEO renews its call for unofficial cross-party groups, including MEP-industry forums, to be at least subject to the same transparency rules – such as the disclosure of members and financial information – as intergroups. But rules that are not followed cannot serve to meet citizens' right to know who is influencing laws made on their behalf. Therefore, not only are clearer, more comprehensive rules required for both intergroups and MEP-industry forums, but better monitoring and implementation is urgently needed.
The European Parliament currently has an opportunity to take steps to help protect the integrity of its law-making. A working group of MEPs has been set up to look at the rules that govern how the Parliament operates, including the rules for intergroups. This working group on "Revisiting the Rules of Procedure" therefore has the opportunity both to strengthen existing rules (and provisions for their implementation) for intergroups, and to widen their scope to include unofficial cross-party groups like MEP-industry forums. This is the minimum needed to ensure the European Parliament is not being subverted to suit the vested interests of particular industries and powerful corporate players who have succeeded in gaining the ear of elected members. But a more fundamental re-thinking of the legitimacy of such groups is also overdue.
Research by Rachel Tansey, incorporating research by Margarida Da Silva.
1A list of the Parliament's official intergroups can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/00c9d93c87/Intergroups.html
CEO attends meetings, but is not a member, of the Integrity, Transparency, Anti- corruption and organised crime (ITCO) group
2These are: European Energy Forum; European Forum for Manufacturing (EFM); European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (EUROFORES); European Internet Forum (EIF); European Parliament Ceramics Forum (EPCF); European Parliamentary Financial Services Forum (EPFSF); Forum in the European Parliament for Construction (FOCOPE); Forum for the Automobile and Society (FAS); Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE-EU); Kangaroo Group; Knowledge for Innovation: K4I Forum of the European Parliament; Land Use and Food Policy; IntergroupRail Forum Europe (RFE); Transatlantic Policy Network (TPN); European Parliament Beer Club; Arctic Forum Foundation; Financial Future; European Parliament Gypsum Forum (EPGF)
3All data on EEF based on information available/ websites accessed as of 25/08/15
4For example, most recent publications shown on Arctic Forum's website from 2013 http://eu-arctic-forum.org/category/publications/, events hosted in EP 2012 – http://eu-arctic-forum.org/contributions-and-activities/the-eu-arctic-forum-co-hosts-seminar-on-european-arctic-oil-gas-in-the-european-parliament-2/#more-707. The group's facebook page shows attendance of EP hearings in Oct 2014 https://www.facebook.com/euarcticforum, and its twitter feed is still active https://twitter.com/EU_ARCTIC_FORUM