Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

  • Dansk
  • NL
  • EN
  • FI
  • FR
  • DE
  • EL
  • IT
  • NO
  • PL
  • PT
  • RO
  • SL
  • ES
  • SV

No apologies for serving business

DG Trade: No apologies for giving privileged access to businessDirector General of DG Trade admits that he grants business privileged accessDirector General of DG Trade admits that he grants business privileged access

During one of DG Trade's recent meetings with civil society, I raised CEO's concerns about the privileged access given to big business interests by the Commission when developing trade policy. The reply from Director General, David O'Sullivan, was surprisingly frank.

He admitted that while his door was open to NGOs and he had never refused a meeting with one, he had “indeed made efforts to have more contacts with business”. As a result, “industry walks through that door more often than others,” he said. “I do not apologise for that, this is the way it's going to be.” Because according to O'Sullivan, trade is about industry.

And once business has walked through the Commission's door? In a letter to CEO, dated 15 June, the Commission's Secretary General admitted that EU officials “test the state of play of the negotiations with relevant industry sectors”. This involves “sharing certain elements of information concerning the negotiations”, but of course only “in return of a commitment from the participants to respect the confidentiality of the information received”.

In short: DG Trade listens more to business than to public interest groups. It shares confidential information about ongoing trade negotiations with a select group of industry lobbyists – information that it regularly withholds from CEO and other public interest groups in replies to access to information requests. And DG Trade thinks that this is the way it should be and will continue to be.

Is that the case? Not if the Commission is serious about its own staff regulations, which state that officials must "refrain from any unauthorised disclosure of information received in the line of duty" unless it is already in the public domain. And not if it takes its standards for consultations seriously, according to which it should neither grant privileged access to particular groups nor listen to only one side of the argument.

European trade policy constitutes no exception to the general need for EU policies that reflect the wider interests of society and not just the agenda of big business. Because EU trade policy is as much about industry as it is about consumers, farmers, workers, the environment and development perspectives – in Europe and in the South.

During one of DG Trade's recent meetings with civil society, I raised CEO's concerns about the privileged access given to big business interests by the Commission when developing trade policy. The reply from Director General, David O'Sullivan, was surprisingly frank. He admitted that while his door was open to NGOs and he had never refused a meeting with one, he had “indeed made efforts to have more contacts with business”. As a result, “industry walks through that door more often than others,” he said. “I do not apologise for that, this is the way it's going to be.” Because according to O'Sullivan, trade is about industry. And once business has walked through the Commission's door? In a letter to CEO, dated 15 June, the Commission's Secretary General admitted that EU officials “test the state of play of the negotiations with relevant industry sectors”. This involves “sharing certain elements of information concerning the negotiations”, but of course only “in return of a commitment from the participants to respect the confidentiality of the information received”. In short: DG Trade listens more to business than to public interest groups. It shares confidential information about ongoing trade negotiations with a select group of industry lobbyists – information that it regularly withholds from CEO and other public interest groups in replies to access to information requests. And DG Trade thinks that this is the way it should be and will continue to be. Is that the case? Not if the Commission is serious about its own staff regulations, which state that officials must "refrain from any unauthorised disclosure of information received in the line of duty" unless it is already in the public domain. And not if it takes its standards for consultations seriously, according to which it should neither grant privileged access to particular groups nor listen to only one side of the argument. European trade policy constitutes no exception to the general need for EU policies that reflect the wider interests of society and not just the agenda of big business. Because EU trade policy is as much about industry as it is about consumers, farmers, workers, the environment and development perspectives – in Europe and in the South.
 

LEt’s kick Big Oil and Gas out of EU and UN climate policy. sign the petition now!

Over 450 public interest groups from across Europe and Canada today published an open letter urging legislators to vote against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They joined forces to defend people and planet against the threats posed by the EU-Canada agreement.

Report

The great CETA swindle

The EU-Canada trade deal CETA continues to draw heavy criticism. Behind the PR attempts to sell it as a progressive agreement - including recent declarations designed to reassure critics and gain support for its ratification - CETA remains what it always has been: an attack on democracy, workers, and the environment. It would be a major mistake to ratify it.

There are many potential winners of the awards for the worst lobbyist on TTIP, probably the most corporate dominated trade negotiations in history.

Business lobby groups are pushing hard for investor-state dispute settlement in TTIP and similar trade deals. If successful, this would expand the ability of corporations to sue governments in response to policies that allegedly limit their profits. Especially laws to protect human health and the environment would be on the line.

In the last years, controversies around the financialisation of nature and the concept of natural capital have fuelled divisions within civil society.

Over 450 public interest groups from across Europe and Canada today published an open letter urging legislators to vote against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They joined forces to defend people and planet against the threats posed by the EU-Canada agreement.

8 November 2016 saw the annual lobby fest between the Commission and BusinessEurope. Lasting for over seven hours, attracting four commissioners and the secretary-general, as well as 26 major corporate interests (who between them spend over €31,789,000 a year on EU lobbying), this is exclusive, privileged access at its most extreme.

New analysis of lobby meetings shows that EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and his colleague Maroš Šefčovič, Vice President for the Energy Union, have overwhelmingly met corporate lobbyists, rather than public interest groups.

 
 
 
 
 
-- placeholder --
 
 
 

The corporate lobby tour