Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Exclusive

Pens down when Juncker meets lobbyists

  • Jean-Claude Juncker met with the CEO of ArcelorMittal on 5 May 2018. But according to the Commission no written record exists of what was said (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission has no written record of what was said during the six meetings its president Jean-Claude Juncker has held with lobbyists this year.

EUobserver asked the commission in an access to documents request to release all documents – including minutes, (handwritten) notes, audio recordings, verbatim reports, emails, and presentations – related to the meetings.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Juncker with Reporters without Borders head Christophe Deloire (Photo: European Commission)

In response, the commission released sixteen documents – only emails and one letter.

But the tranche of documents contained no minutes, notes, or other paper trail of the contents of Juncker's lobby talks.

"There is no obligation to have minutes being taken," said a commission spokeswoman.

Indeed, the commission president followed the institution's own rules by having the six meetings published on the webpage 'Meetings of president Jean-Claude Juncker with organisations and self-employed individuals'.

But the lack of minutes or any other notes about what was said in the meeting does raise further questions.

Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP from the Green group, said he found it "strange".

"When the American president has formal talks, transcripts are produced," noted Eickhout.

"You would expect that there would be [similar documents] for Juncker – in particular because you want to know what he promises in such a meeting," said Eickhout.

Urgent request

One example of wanting to know what was said, could be the meeting Juncker had with Josef Ackermann, a Swiss banker who leads the board of directors of the Bank of Cyprus.

The former CEO of Deutsche Bank is also a former member of the secretive Group of Thirty bankers' club and of the steering committee of the Bilderberg meetings.

An email to Juncker's office, sent by Ackermann's office, dated 10 April 2018, was titled: "Urgent request from Dr. Josef Ackermann".

The short note remarked that it had "been a while" since the two had been in close contact, but that Ackermann "still remembers their successful meetings".

"This time Dr. Ackermann comes with an urgent request and would like to discuss with president Juncker the situation between the EU and Switzerland regarding US sanctions," said the email.

The email was sent on the same day as media reported that US sanctions on Russian oligarchs had effects on the stock value of several Swiss companies with Russian ties.

The email did not elaborate on whether the urgent request was merely to discuss the situation, or whether there was something specific Ackermann wanted Juncker to do.

When EUobserver asked the commission to comment, a spokeswoman merely referred to the entry in the commission's register of lobby meetings.

"The two have met before and they discussed current European and global affairs – as you can also see from the transparency register," she said about the meeting, which took place on 7 May.

Confusingly, the transparency register is the name of the database of registered lobbyists, but in this case the spokeswoman referred to the lists of meetings that each commissioner publishes on his or her individual webpage.

'Bad practice'

Lobby transparency campaigner Margarida Silva told EUobserver that Juncker not keeping minutes of his meetings was "bad practice".

"[It] prevents adequate scrutiny of the commission's interactions with lobbyists and ultimately makes it difficult for citizens to fully understand who influence policy processes," said Silva in an email.

Christophe Deloire is secretary-general of the press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders.

According to the released documents, he wanted to discuss how the EU's condemnation of two killings of journalists, in Malta and Slovakia, "can be followed by action". He met Juncker on 15 May.

Deloire told EUobserver that two of Juncker's advisors had been in the room during his meeting, but that he did not remember if they took notes.

Eickhout, the Green MEP, said that he found it hard to imagine that at the highest political level, no notes are being taken.

"If I have a meeting with a commissioner, then you are almost never alone. There are always other people around the table. And they write things down," said Eickhout.

Future of Europe

Juncker hardly meets anyone who is not a government official or politician, so when he does meet lobbyists, it sends a political signal of where his priorities lie.

The other four people Juncker met in 2018 were Hans-Walter Peters, Guillaume Klossa, Lakshmi Mittal, and Klaus Schwab.

Peters is head of the Association of German Banks. His meeting with Juncker on 10 January was registered as being about "Banking Union and deepening of economic and monetary union".

Klossa is founder of Europanova, a non-governmental organisation that says it wants to promote the public debate about Europe. He spoke to Juncker on 22 January about "current reflections about the future of Europe".

Mittal, CEO of steel multinational ArcelorMittal, was originally to meet Juncker during the World Economic Forum in Davos, according to one of the released emails – but Juncker had to cancel because of a stomach flu.

The meeting was scheduled for 6 March, and registered as a discussion about "EU industrial and trade policy", although it seems unlikely that the two did not discuss the hot topic of that period – the EU's attempt to get an exemption from US tariffs on steel.

Schwab, finally, is executive chairman of the World Economic Forum – the Alpine meeting which Juncker had to skip this year.

In a letter dated 19 April, Schwab told Juncker that he hoped he would make it next year, and that he wanted to meet him in Brussels.

"Above all, to see how, in the current situation, we can contribute to the European idea," wrote Schwab.

The topic of the meeting, held on 24 May, was registered as "Future of Europe".

The above shows that the entries into the meeting register are not always particularly elaborate.

Commission's 'ahead' on transparency

But when comparing the level of transparency on lobby meetings in the commission to other EU institutions like the European Parliament, it is "ahead", said Eickhout.

At national level, the picture is mixed, said campaigner Silva.

She said that in Ireland for example, lobbyists had to list their encounters with ministers themselves, while in the UK cabinet ministers are required to list lobby meetings, which are published every quarter.

"This is unfortunately not the majority in the EU yet but the number of countries which keep track of lobby meetings is increasing," she noted.

"As far as I know no country follows the EU commission model strictly," Silva added.

Interview

Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me

Vice-president of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen tells EUobserver that he did most of the talking during a beer with the former commission chief, who now works for Goldman Sachs.

Investigation

Oettinger left no trace of VW Dieselgate meeting

EU commissioner for the digital economy and society, Guenther Oettinger, met with German carmakers in January to discuss "diesel emissions", even though the topic is not in his portfolio.

Exclusive

Commission took no minutes at Juncker speech seminar

In August, Jean-Claude Juncker and his EU commissioners held a two-day seminar at a chateau outside Brussels to prepare this week's State of the Union speech. The commission implies there is no written record.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  4. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  5. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  7. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  9. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  12. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us