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11th Jul 2020

EU commissioners left no paper trail on car lobby talks

  • Guenther Oettinger in 2012, when he was energy commissioner, shaking hands with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne. On the left is Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche. All pictured men were members of the High Level Group on the competitiveness and sustainable growth (Photo: European Commission)

European Commissioners Guenther Oettinger and Miguel Arias Canete met with German carmaker Daimler last year to discuss the future of EU emissions rules, without leaving any paper trail.

The meeting took place in Strasbourg on 24 October 2017, 15 days before the commission presented a legislative proposal on new CO2 emission standards.

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Last month, EUobserver asked the European Commission in an access to documents request to receive all documents related to the meeting, "including but not limited to minutes, verbatim reports, emails, and presentations".

The commission replied on Thursday (12 April), saying "we regret to inform you that the commission does not hold any documents that would correspond to the description given in your application".

This means that the meeting was set up without any preparatory or follow-up emails being exchanged, and that during the meeting, no one took notes.

Oettinger's cabinet registered the meeting's subject as "Future of CO2 emission regulation".

Meanwhile, the choice of commissioners with whom the Daimler lobbyist - or lobbyists, that is not clear - met, was somewhat peculiar.

It is not surprising that the German company wanted to talk to the Spaniard Canete, who is in charge of climate action.

But Oettinger's portfolio is commission human resources and the EU budget.

It is likely that a more relevant factor for Daimler was that Oettinger is German.

The German commissioner has met with German carmakers before. In 2016 he discussed the Dieselgate scandal with Volkswagen - also without anyone taking any notes.

The EU's regulation on access to documents only allows existing papers to be requested - if nothing is written down, it cannot be made public.

Recently, Finnish jobs commissioner Jyrki Katainen met with former commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, also without taking any notes.

Katainen's defence was that the two were friends and met "for a beer".

According to the LobbyFacts website, Daimler lobbyists met with commissioners or high-level officials 37 times since November 2014. It has reported an annual EU lobbying budget of between €2.5m and €2.75m.

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