Sunday

4th Jun 2023

Lobby links with Russian oil giant Lukoil look hard to break

  • The pressure is on Europe's business associations to remove links with Russian firms, particularly those involved in energy (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

Even as Brussels lobby groups rush to part ways with their Russian clients — breaking up still can look hard to do.

Take BusinessEurope, which holds more meetings with EU policymakers than any other lobby group in the EU capital.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

BusinessEurope had listed Lukoil, a Russian multinational headquartered in Moscow and one of the largest global producers of crude oil, as one of its "partner companies" on its website.

When EUobserver contacted Business Europe about the relationship, BusinessEurope provided a link to a list of partner companies which did not include Lukoil.

But an internet archive shows Lukoil was previously listed as a member of the group.

Later a spokesperson confirmed it suspended Lukoil membership on 1 March, "when we, logically, removed Lukoil" as a partner company from its website.

In the case of BusinessEurope, the benefits of being a partner company include high-level contacts with the EU institutions, high-level meetings with guests such as EU commissioners, and their heads of cabinet, as well as lawmakers.

The pressure is on Europe's business associations to remove evidence of links with Russian firms — particularly those involved in selling Russian energy, widely regarded as helping to fund the Kremlin's ability to wage war in Ukraine.

But efforts made in some cases appear rushed and confused — more aimed at managing reputational fallout than at a commitment to shift to doing business radically differently with Russian interests.

The pressure is coming, from among others, the German Green lawmaker Daniel Freund.

Freund has named Lukoil as one of eleven Kremlin-linked companies with Brussels lobbyists he said should be banned from the EU institutions.

Asked about BusinessEurope apparently removing Lukoil from its website after a media question, Freund said that showed the need for a lobbying ban that goes beyond the EU institutions.

"If they are banned from the European Parliament, suspending their membership in umbrella organizations is the logical conclusion," Freund said, referring to companies like Lukoil.

Even so, there's no uniform agreement on how to deal with Russian businesses that lobby the EU institutions.

Some lobbyists arguing for some level of ongoing contact on the basis that corporate actors often want to stay out of political crossfire and geopolitical disputes — and at least one other major lobbyist, FuelsEurope, is standing by Lukoil.

"Lukoil's membership has currently been maintained," a FuelsEurope spokesperson said by email.

FuelsEurope's decision also followed a statement, by Lukoil, in which its board of directors expressed their "deepest concerns about the tragic events in Ukraine" and called for "the soonest termination of the armed conflict."

But FuelsEurope has "broken all ties" with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft, "after analysing the positions of our Russian members," said the spokesperson. No money has been received from the firm in 2022, he added.

With businesses taking assorted positions on the ethical red lines of Russian trade, one industry leader has called on EU policymakers to set clearer rules for all European companies.

Axel Eggert, head of the European steel association Eurofer, is in the process of taking legal advice about the membership of the European arm of Russian steel company NLMK.

"We have a procedure you have to take before you can expel or suspend a member of Eurofer," he said. "It has to be fair. So, we have to assess all that."

Eggert has also informed World Steel, a global industry association, that he will not participate in its meetings while Russia is represented.

But he believes that these decisions should not be left to boardrooms.

"Policy makers need to take the decision," he said. "If policy makers were to say you have to cut anything where a Russian has a stake, then that's clear.

In that scenario, "the European steel industry will accept that as a necessity to stop the bloodshed," he said.

Like Eurofer, Business Europe and Fuels Europe are fully backing EU sanctions against Russian firms.

"Business is not happening in a vacuum and will stand behind the measures considered necessary by EU institutions," said a statement on the war issued by BusinessEurope.

FuelsEurope said: "We support the response of the international community and offer our industry knowledge to governments to help mitigate consequences for European citizens."

Lobbyists and lawyers start split from Moscow

Some consultancies, such as Brunswick or Kreab, were already refusing Russian clients well before the invasion in late February. Law firm Covington represented the Ukrainian government on a pro-bono basis in its case against Russia at the Hague this week.

Exclusive

EU to clean house of Russia lobbyists

Brussels is to wave goodbye to Russian lobbyists under new sanctions, ending a 20-year era of influence peddling in Europe.

Nato warns of Russian chemical weapons threat

Nato leaders have redoubled warnings for Russia not to use chemical weapons or worse in Ukraine. They also agreed to send 40,000 more troops to Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

Opinion

How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon

The EU led support for the waste management crisis in Lebanon, spending around €89m between 2004-2017, with at least €30m spent on 16 solid-waste management facilities. However, it failed to deliver.

Latest News

  1. Spanish PM to delay EU presidency speech due to snap election
  2. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  3. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  4. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  5. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  6. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  7. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  8. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us