Last December, the ALTER-EU Steering Committee sent a letter to the (then) newly sworn in President of the Commission to suggest reforms to improve transparency, prevent corporate capture and make politics fossil free. We finally received a reply from Ms Tatjana Verrier, a director at the European Commission’s Secretariat-General.
Now, after reading the letter attentively, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that the Commission believes, like we do, that lobbying should be based on transparency, integrity and – we underline - equality of treatment. We warmly welcome the Commission’s commitment in “achieving balance and representativeness in the stakeholders” it interacts with. Equality of treatment, balance and representativeness are all necessary to avoid the corporate capture of EU policies and institutions.
The bad news is that the European Commission may not translate its willingness to adhere to such principles into concrete measures that would actually make a difference. The Commission did not respond to our questions on how to enforce the "balance and representativeness" meetings. Nor did it answer our question about the implementation across the entire Commission of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s article 5.3, which requires protecting decision-making from tobacco industry influence and limit contacts with the industry to the minimum needed for effective tobacco control regulation. The lady of the Secretariat General also overlooked our call for concrete measures to protect climate change policy-making from fossil fuel industry influence.
While we are aware that, during the first 100 days of the Von der Leyen Commission, the share of NGOs in the total number of meetings rose from 18% to 27% in comparison with the previous executive, we also know that in these days of Covid-19 related lockdown he most well-resourced companies and lobbyists have kept their lobbying activities intense, through zoom and skype meetings with decision-makers. However, not all officials taking part in those meetings have complied with the transparency and register rules. Lobbying meetings are supposed to be registered with information about the officials who took part in the meeting, who they met, when and the topic discussed. Such disclosure is critical for the citizens and civil society to know who is lobbying who about what.
Challenging times are ahead of us at the political, environmental, economic and social fronts. The interests of the European citizens and those who have made the European Union their home must be put ahead of big business’ interests. The urgency of the situation made us also send a letter to Vice-President Jourová warning against unbalanced lobby meetings and corporate influence. Here is the summary of our letter:
- Proactive lobby transparency and equality of treatment
- Curbing the revolving door and privileged access
- Tackling excessive corporate influence
- Fossil fuels politics
- Transparency, accountability and balance in COVID-19 times
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