Lobby meetings with EU policy-makers dominated by corporate interests

New analysis published today by Transparency International reveals that the overwhelming majority of lobby meetings held by European Commissioners and their closest advisors are with representatives of corporate interests. This is just one of the findings from a new lobby monitoring tool launched today at www.integritywatch.eu.

Analysis of the 4,318 lobby meetings declared by the top tier of European Commission officials between December 2014 and June 2015 shows that more than 75% were with corporate lobbyists. This compares to 18% with NGOs, 4% with think tanks and 2% with local authorities. Google, General Electric and Airbus are some of the most active lobbyists at this level, with 25 to 29 meetings each. Google and General Electric are also some of the biggest spenders in Brussels, each declaring EU lobby budgets of around €3.5 million per year.

Of the 7,908 organisations who have voluntarily registered in the EU Transparency Register - the register of EU lobbyists - 4,879 seek to influence political decisions of the European Union on behalf of corporate interests. Exxon Mobil, Shell and Microsoft (all €4.5-5m) are the top three companies in terms of lobby budgets according to their declarations made to the EU Transparency Register.

"The evidence of the last six months suggests there is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get," says Daniel Freund from Transparency International EU. “Those organisations with the biggest lobby budgets get a lot of access, particularly on the financial, digital and energy portfolios.”

The portfolios for Climate & Energy (487 meetings), Jobs & Growth (398), Digital Economy (366) and Financial Markets (295) currently receive most attention from lobbyists. The Commissioners in charge of the latter three – Finland’s Jyrki Katainen, UK’s Jonathan Hill and Germany’s Günther Oettinger also have particularly low numbers for meetings with civil society – 3, 3 and 2 respectively, representing between 4% and 8% of the total number of their declared meetings. While large global NGOs, such as WWF and Greenpeace, are in the Top 10 of organisations with most meetings, it is notable that meetings with civil society are often held as large roundtable events with multiple participants.

In November 2014, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker instructed his Commissioners to “ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet."*

The data also reveals that 80% of the 7,821 organisations currently registered did not have a single meeting reported with a Commissioner or their teams, demonstrating the limitations of the European Commission’s new transparency provisions that only cover the highest ranking top 1% of EU officials and only 20% of the registered lobby organisations. Lower-level officials, such as the team negotiating the Free-Trade Agreement TTIP with the US, are not covered.

“The European Commission should be congratulated on providing this insight into lobbying of high-level officials, but this is just part of the picture. Officials are lobbied at all levels and greater transparency is required to reassure the public about the integrity of EU policy-making”, says Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU. “All EU institutions should publish a “legislative footprint” – a public record of all lobby meetings and other input that has influenced policies and legislation.”

Transparency International EU also found that many organisations still remain absent from the register. This includes 14 of the 20 biggest law-firms in the world that all have Brussels offices, such as Clifford Chance, White & Case or Sidley Austin. 11 out of these 14 law firms have registered as lobby organisations in Washington DC where registration is mandatory.

"Much of the information that lobbyists voluntarily file with the lobby register is inaccurate, incomplete or outright meaningless," says Freund. Over 60% of organisations that lobbied the European Commission on the EU-US trade agreement do not properly declare these activities. On the broad reform package of financial services entitled “Capital Markets Union”, many banks – including HSBC, BNP Paribas and Lloyds – that have had meetings on this topic fail to declare in the lobby register that they are active in this area.

The findings of EU Integrity Watch also reveal hundreds of completely meaningless declarations, with some organisations claiming to spend more than €100,000,000 on EU lobbying or having tens of thousands of lobbyists at their disposal. This demonstrates the need for more systematic checks and verification by the Commission and ultimately a mandatory register.

 

Lobby organisations in Brussels with most high-level meetings:

Rank

Name

Meetings

Lobby Budget €

Lobbyists (FTE)

EP Badges

1

BUSINESSEUROPE

42

4,000,000

29

23

2

Google

29

3,500,000

9

8

2

WWF European Policy Programme

29

1,000,000

12

10

4

General Electric Company (GE)

26

3,250,000

9

4

4

EuroCommerce

26

400,000

3

13

6

European Chemical Industry Council

25

10,100,000

45

24

6

Airbus Group N.V.

25

400,000

10

11

8

Greenpeace European Unit

22

1,000,000

7

13

8

American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union (AmCham EU)

22

900,000

6

9

8

Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe)

22

800,000

11

10

8

The European Steel Association (EUROFER)

22

600,000

2

2

8

EUROCHAMBRES – Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (eurochambres)

22

7,600,000

18

10

13

Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC)

20

1,500,000

16

24

13

OXFAM INTERNATIONAL EU ADVOCACY OFFICE

20

300,000

12

12

Meetings: as reported by the European Commission as meeting with this lobby organisation
Lobby Budget: as self-declared by lobby organisations on EU Transparency Register (JTR)
FTE: full-time equivalent, number of lobbyists as self-declared by organisations on JTR
EP Badges: number of access badges for accredited lobbyists to the European Parliament

 

Background information:

EU Integrity Watch:

Launched in October 2014, EU Integrity Watch (www.integritywatch.eu) is Transparency International EU's central hub for online tools aimed at making the EU Institutions more transparent. A previously launched tool displays the outside activities and incomes of Members of the European Parliament showing that more than 50% of MEPs have side jobs collectively paying up to 18m EUR per year.

Starting today, the page also hosts two tools providing information on EU lobbying. Graphic filters and a powerful search function allow citizens, journalists and civil society to hold EU decision makers to account and to monitor lobbying activities for potential conflicts of interest and false/inaccurate declarations. EU Integrity Watch provides a ‘one-stop shop’ for information published by the European Commission on meetings with lobbyists since December 2014. This information has been linked to data from the EU lobbying register for the first time to provide the most comprehensive overview of Brussels lobbying to date.

Lobbying in Europe:

Today's assessment of the situation of lobbying in Brussels follows the publication of Transparency International's report on "Lobbying in Europe: Hidden Influence, Privileged Access" that was published on 15 April 2015. The report analysed lobbying in 19 European countries and in the 3 EU institutions and shows examples of undue influence on politics across the region and in Brussels. The full report can be found here and the press release with main findings and the country ranking here.

Transparency Initiative of the European Commission:

The European Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker has made strong commitments to increased transparency. Since 1 December 2015 Commissioners, their Cabinets and Director-Generals publish their meetings and only meet with lobbyists registered in the EU Transparency Register. VP Frans Timmermans has been tasked to put forward a proposal for a mandatory register by the end of 2015. The Commission also pledged to “ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet”.

EU Transparency Register:

Created in 2011 as a joint register for lobbyists by the European Commission and Parliament, the voluntary register of Brussels lobbyists has undergone multiple revisions. Following the launch of an updated website on 27 January 2015, all registered organisations had to undergo a first annual update of their information. Despite the suspension of several hundred organisation and updated declarations from more than 7500 organisations that are currently registered, the quality of the data remains relatively poor, although improving compared to previous years. Transparency International has been campaigning for a mandatory register with meaningful sanctions for lobbyists that break the rules. Our detailed recommendations can be found here.

TI EU proposals to increase lobbying transparency:

  1. Make the EU Transparency Register mandatory

Only if registration is mandatory for lobbyists can we be sure to capture all those seeking to directly or indirectly influence EU decision-making. A mandatory register would also allow sanctioning of organisations that do not comply with the rules. The Transparency Register Secretariat needs to be provided with the necessary resources to better check the declarations for possible errors, particularly on those organisations that have frequent meetings at the highest level. Online tools like Integrity Watch can help in that regard.

  1. Introduce a Legislative Footprint for EU decision-making and legislation

A legislative footprint is a comprehensive public record of lobbyists’ influence on a piece of legislation or public decision. This can be established through the registration of meetings and by capturing written input from lobbyists. The Commission has started both but the measures need to be extended to everyone involved in the decision-making process. This means extending current provision to the lower levels of the Commission but more importantly to the European Parliament and Council. Standardisation of subject matters and the mention of concrete legislative files as well as the use of open data would greatly increase the usability of the data by a wider audience.

Transparency International has published a policy paper with detailed recommendations on how an EU Legislative Footprint can be introduced. The paper, including a set of frequently asked questions on administrative burden or privacy protection, can be found here.

 

*Communication from the President to the Commission: The Working Methods of the European Commission 2014 – 2019, page 9, 11 November 2014: "While contact with stakeholders is a natural and important part of the work of a Member of the Commission, all such contacts should be conducted with transparency and Members of the Commission should seek to ensure an appropriate balance and representativeness in the stakeholders they meet." http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/3/2014/EN/3-2014-9004-EN-F1-1.Pdf

Press contact(s):

CARL DOLAN - Director
T: +32 (0) 2 893 24 55
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

DANIEL FREUND - Policy Officer EU Integrity
T: +32 (0) 2 893 24 59
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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