Brussels, 23 May 2015 – Do you want to see more transparency about who is lobbying who in Brussels and the EU institutions? Are you angry about the privileged access that corporate lobbyists get to EU decision-makers, whether it be on TTIP, tobacco, climate, regulation, digital rights…?
The European Commission is consulting about how to improve the EU lobby transparency register with a view to revising and improving the current set-up. The consultation process is far from perfect, and the extent of the Commission’s future ambition is not yet clear, but nonetheless, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is keen to see as many individuals and organisations as possible express their views on this topic. The more that the Commission hears critical voices supporting a robust EU lobby transparency regime, the more chance that the Commission will produce a strong proposal.
To this end, ALTER-EU has produced an outline response to the consultation which might give you ideas for your own submission. Our outline makes suggestions in various areas and is for you to adapt as you wish. Do get in touch if you have any questions. And do let us know if you send in a submission.
Download full document at the ALT website and read ALTER-EU’s own consultation response.
For more information please contact: Andreas Pavlou | Access Info Europe
Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558
A Spinwatch report released this month reveals the deep ties between pro-Israel organisations operating in Brussels and US-based right-wing donors, Republican supporters of Islamophobic causes and proponents of Israel’s settlement project. The report's authors argue we need much greater transparency in political lobbying at the EU.
Since Palestinian civil society announced the call in 2005 for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, similar to the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa, an array of pro-Israel organisations have been established in Brussels to influence European policy on Israel-Palestine. Most of the discussion of the ‘Israel lobby’ centres on its activities in Washington. But are there similar groups active in Brussels? For more than two years we have been researching that question. It turns out that there is indeed a burgeoning Israel lobby in Brussels.
New report on Israel lobby in Brussels’ reveals links to US Islamophobia industry and illegal settlementsBy Europal Forum/Public Interest Investigations
Press release: Our new report on the Israel lobby and the European Union is launched today (9 May) in Brussels and this coming Friday in London (13 May).
Researched and written by Public Interest Investigations/Spinwatch and published by EuroPal Forum, the report reveals the extent to which noted American funders and proponents of the Islamophobia industry in the United States and Israel’s illegal settlement project in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are also financing the expanding Israel lobby in Brussels.
This hasn’t been a good week for education reformers. Narrow, high stakes testing - their quick fix for improving learning – is in the dock. But it will take more than a few botched tests to stop corporations from profiting from this '$4.5 trillion opportunity'.
Mid week, it emerged that a Sats spelling test due to be taken next month had been accidentally published as a ‘sample paper’ by the Department of Education months ago.
Given that no one has any idea how many children have used it to practice for the test, headteachers called for schools to be allowed to spend their time more fruitfully, rather than taking what is now a seriously compromised assessment. Today the schools minister Nick Gibb agreed and suspended it.
At the very same moment we, in the UK, learnt of the error, thousands of children in New Jersey sat at their desks looking at blank screens instead of the maths and English tests they were due to take.
Splits occur within European Commission, as European Parliament, Ombudsman and NGOs increase the pressure for implementing UN rules for contacts with tobacco industry lobbyists.
In February, European Commission President Juncker took many by surprise by flatly rejecting a European Ombudsman's ruling recommending full transparency around tobacco industry lobbying.
So, the PM's is in. The Chancellor's too, but a bit trimmed. Boris' is much bigger. Corbyn's was late. Many are unremarkable.
What real difference has it made that that our political leaders have published details of their tax affairs?
Not a lot.
Should we be demanding more: that all politicians publish annually? What about the tax affairs of politicians' family members? As the Panama papers have shown, offshoring money isn't something people necessarily do under their own name. It's done through spouses, trusted friends and by parents.
The risk of going down this path, as Aditya Chakrabortty noted earlier this week, is that the publication of politicians' tax returns will descend into a morass of semi-titillating detail.... [but] will miss the wider truth.'
Twelve months ago the government introduced new rules that promised to let us see which lobbyists are having a quiet word with our politicians. So, on the anniversary of the launch of the UK's lobbying register, how much more do we know about who is leaning on our politicians?
Not very much. As predicted by everyone, the register is failing to ‘shine the light of transparency on lobbying,’ as promised by David Cameron.
Test your knowledge first with our 'who's lobbying' quiz!
Over a quarter of the 124 lobbying firms that made the effort to register, don’t declare a single client. So, don't bother trying to find out from the register whose interests arch-networker Roland Rudd is representing. (Rudd is one of the UK's best-connected lobbyists: he's been mates with Prime Ministers; is brother of current Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd; and the man behind the main anti-Brexit campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe).
From other sources, we know that Finsbury’s busy lobbying for the scandal-hit car maker, VW; under-fire bookmaker, Paddy Power, and tax-lite tech giant, Google, a firm that spent $17m and $4.5m lobbying Washington and Brussels respectively.
The absence of clients is down to the government’s very tightly drawn definition of what constitutes lobbying. Under the rules, only if a lobbyist directly contacts a minister on behalf of a client, do they need to declare that client on the register. Lobbying of anyone else in government, including special advisers, is exempt, as is all lobbying by corporations themselves.
There is a transparency trend developing across many countries in Europe and beyond. Dozens of countries have introduced legislation around freedom of information and access to documents, and in some cases open-government data initiatives. We are also seeing numerous systems for disclosing lobbying, the latest of which is about to be passed into law by the Scottish parliament. But I’m afraid the Scots are not pushing the envelope. There’s reason to expect improvement, but the torch on offer will not shine a light as widely as one might like.
You can easily recognise many of the drivers of these global trends. We’re in an era where people don’t trust politicians or big business; where social media and other new communication platforms are making it easier to participate in politics; where there is a general desire for greater public accountability.
Financial services dominate the list of the UK's top corporate lobbyists at the EU level, says LobbyFacts.
Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland and Aviva are all in the top 15 of UK-based companies spending most on EU lobbying, with their collective spending totalling between €6,736,619 and €7,536,614 in the most recent year for which figures are provided. (For many of these companies which originate from outside the UK, London provides their European base, which is why they feature in this list of top UK lobbyists at the EU level.)
As the European Commission launches its public consultation on the future EU lobby transparency regime, members of the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) give their reaction.
Vicky Cann, from Corporate Europe Observatory, a steering committee member of ALTER-EU says:
ALTER-EU is a veteran of EU lobby register reform processes and up to now, change has been glacially slow. For this new consultation to be genuinely different, the Commission must seek views from far and wide across Europe and crucially, must be prepared to grasp the lobbying bull by the horns. A legally-binding register – which goes further than a de facto mandatory register - is the only way to ensure that citizens can properly see who is influencing EU decision-making, on which issues, on whose behalf, and with what budgets.'