NFU News

Lobbying the new European Commission

What do the new Commissioners in the EU have in common? They need to gather vast amounts of information about their respective policy areas.

One of the ways they go about this is to have meetings with lobbyists. Upon assuming office, President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, launched an ambitious new transparency system, whereby all commissioners and their cabinets would have to publicly report meetings they have had with lobbyists. This system, composed of several different websites (89 webpages to be exact), has been in place since 1 December 2014 and already contains an impressive amount of data.

Apart from the previously known number of lobby organisations present in Brussels (there are more than 8000 in case you were wondering), the system also shows 4000 registered meetings between the Commission and lobbyists logged for the six month period since it was instored.

These are not surprising figures by themselves, but the trends that are revealed when delving into the specifics are very interesting.

First off, it is found that 70,62% of meetings were held with business/corporate entities. Of these, BusinessEurope (42 meetings), Google (29 meetings) and General Electric Company (26 meetings) are in the lead. The NGO side accounts for 18,28% of total meetings, with WWF (29 meetings) and Climate Action Network (22 meetings) among the most met representatives. Further studies of the nature of the meetings that the two groups are invited to, show another interesting trend. While business/corporate entities are predominately invited to meet commissioners and their cabinets on a face-to-face basis, NGO’s are mainly invited to speak on panels during debates and discussions. Furthermore, from a trade union perspective, the ETUC has only had 17 meetings with the Commission over the period, leaving them in the 20th spot on the list.

If focus is turned on the Commission side instead, commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (DG Climate Action & Energy) is the most proactive in meeting with lobbyists, having managed 118 meetings. The commissioner in charge of DG Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, Lord Hill has reported 72 meetings over the period. However 88,89% of his meetings were dedicated to business/corporate interests, with ETUC being one of the only trade union entities having been given a meeting.

Whether these figures indicate a clear objective from the side of the Commission, of mainly listening to the business/corporate side, or simply shows the proportions of business vs. NGO interests being represented in Brussels is not easily to determine. Most likely it is a combination of both. But at least now actual figures can be put on the amount of meetings given to each side of the employer/employee table and it is clear that employee representation is facing a tough challenge in getting its voice heard.

For more information, visit the Integrity Watch website.

Author: Morten Clausen, Policy Officer NFU/UNI Europa Finance

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