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26th Feb 2017

Oil giant defends its EU lobby transparency

  • "Lobby groups and companies with something to hide can decide what to disclose and what to withhold," says Friends of the Earth Europe. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Oil giant BP denies allegations it is under-reporting its lobbying efforts in Brussels.

A spokesperson for the oil giant told this website on Thursday (11 July) that it is completely transparent.

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“We report our direct lobbying costs and also list our memberships of associations like Europia, Concawe, Eurogas,” the contact said by email.

But for its part, the Brussels’ based advocacy group Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE), says both BP and Shell provide misleading information in the EU transparency register.

It says the two firms increased their declared lobbying budgets in the registry after FoE filed a complaint to the EU Ombudsman against the European Commission in 2012.

FoE says Shell’s lobby budget in the register went from €400,000 to €4,000,000 in February 2012. They say BP also upped its declared lobbying expenditures in the registry in November 2012.

BP notes that industry associations - such as Europia, Concawe and Eurogas - are also listed on the register and report the contributions they receive.

“If we were to report our contributions to them, there would be double-counting of costs on the register, which would give a distorted picture of the industry’s lobbying efforts,” said the BP spokesperson.

The UK-based company declares five lobbyists in the registry but has eight accredited to the European Parliament.

BP says the discrepancy is due to uncertainty of reporting full-time and part-time individuals and that the registers are not always up to date.

FoE in 2010 tried to get the European Commission to disclose documents that revealed the true extent of the lobbying efforts by the companies.

The commission refused full access, stating in February 2011 that some of the information requested by the group was “irrelevant”.

FoE then filed a complaint against the commission with EU Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros.

On Thursday, Diamandouros released the conclusions of his investigation into FoE’s complaint.

Diamandouros called on the commission to improve accuracy and monitoring of the transparency register.

“This includes providing better guidance for companies and organisations which register themselves, so as to ensure that the information given is accurate,” he said in a statement.

He added that the commission “had done all in its power to investigate the complaints and that its conclusions were reasonable,” but he critised the EU executive for failing to explain why it rejected FoE’s arguments in the first place.

The commission’s institutional affairs spokesperson, Antony Gravili, said the decision relates to events which took place before the transparency register existed.

“Very few countries in the world, including EU Member States, have such a robust system in place to bring transparency to those who seek to influence the decision-making process,” he said.

FoE, for their part, says the ruling demonstrates that a voluntary-based EU transparency register is not credible.

Shell was contacted on this story but has yet to respond.

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