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22nd Jan 2021

Industry lobbyists dominate EU commission meetings

  • Eighty percent of the some 7,800 organisations in the register have not declared any meetings (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The vast majority of meetings between lobbyists and senior EU commission staff are dominated by corporate interest.

Transparency International’s Brussels-based office on Wednesday (24 June) said three-quarters of the 4,318 meetings declared since December and June this year are with people from big companies like Google and lobby group BusinessEurope.

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The insights are published on TI’s integrity platform and provide a detailed overview of who lobbied the most, on what issues, and with whom.

“There is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get,” said TI’s Daniel Freund in a statement.

Companies with big lobby budgets and with interest in energy, finance, and digital portfolios have much greater access when compared to civil society, he says.

Among them the top ten with the most declared meetings are Google and General Electric. Each spend some €3.5 million a year on lobbying.

BusinessEurope, which at 42 had the most meetings, spends around €4 million.

Exxon Mobil, Shell and Microsoft are also top spenders with around €4.5 to €5 million each. The European Chemical Industry Council spends over €10 million.

Along with BusinessEurope, Google, and General Electric, pressure groups like WWF and Greenpeace also rank in the top ten lobbyists who met with senior commission officials.

But unlike their corporate counterparts, their access is most often restricted to “large roundtable events with multiple participants.”

Meanwhile, only 18 percent of the declared meetings were held with NGOs, followed by 4 percent with think tanks, and two percent with local authorities.

Climate action and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete hosted the most lobbyist meetings, followed by the commission’s director-general of communications Robert Madelin, and then vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Out of the thousands of meetings held, some 487 dealt with climate energy, another 398 on jobs and growth, 366 on the digital economy, and 295 with financial markets.

The findings revealed that the commissioners in charge of jobs and growth (Jyrki Katainen), digital economy (Gunther Oettinger) and financial markets (Jonathan Hill), only met between 2 and 3 civil society lobbyists.

Legislative footprint

TI’s director in Brussels, Carl Dolan, says the commission’s transparency efforts need to broaden to include lower level officials like those working on the EU-US free trade negotiations.

The commission has been publishing meetings with lobby groups listed in the EU’s joint-transparency register since December. But the disclosure requirements only apply to one percent of the EU’s total staff like commissioners, cabinet, and director generals.

“Officials are lobbied at all levels and greater transparency is required to reassure the public about the integrity of EU policy-making,” said Dolan in a statement.

Eighty percent of the some 7,800 organisations in the register have not declared any meetings.

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