If it's autumn in Brussels, it must be time for the annual gathering of commissioners and Big Business! Organised by BusinessEurope, one of Europe's lobbying heavyweights, it’s a shocking example of the cosy relations between EU regulators and those they should be regulating.
Stop corporate capture
Corporate capture, or corporate takeover, occurs when a policy issue, agenda or new legislation is influenced in the extreme, often from the beginning and on an ongoing basis, by corporate interests. Corporate capture is extreme influence and while it does not happen on all EU policies and laws, the risk of corporate capture at the EU level can be high. The threat of corporate capture comes from the tactics which corporate lobbyists and business elites rely on to promote their agenda. These include: proffering corporate-dominated ‘advice’ or ‘expertise’ throughout the policy-making process; the smooth movement of staff, via the revolving door, to and from public institutions and big business; the privileged access of business interests to top decision-makers and officials responsible for handling key dossiers; the informal links which exist between political and corporate elites, including being members of the same political party; the setting-up of front groups; the funding of apparently ‘independent’ research; and many other tools and tactics which can all contribute to corporate capture.
There is also a significant risk of corporate capture occuring at the national level too and it is vital that civil society works together to lower the risk and combat it.
Action in a number of different areas would be needed to prevent corporate capture, and different combinations of actions will be needed for different contexts. Some of the positive policy actions, safeguards and alternatives which ALTER-EU supports are listed here:
A clear commitment by politicians and officials that they will serve the public interest and not corporate interests. Logically, this commitment should then be reflected in how they interact with stakeholders and in the policies and legislation produced
Full lobby transparency which requires a legally-binding lobby register and proactive transparency of all lobby meetings held by politicians and officials, alongside tough rules for lobbyists to prevent unethical lobbying
Comprehensive freedom of information rules which enable outsiders to follow the policy-making process in a detailed way, and to assess how a proposal is being influenced
Robust ethics rules for politicians and officials to prevent conflicts of interest, to govern financial interests, second jobs, revolving doors, receiving gifts and hospitality,and other areas
Getting corporate money out of politics. Politicians, officials and political parties should not receive corporate funding and there should be strict limits on the size of political donations from individuals
Full transparency of the funding sources of lobby actors, including NGOs, but also think tanks (which often masquerade as independent but receive significant corporate donations), front groups, and trade associations, as well as full transparency on the lobby clients of law firms and lobby consultancies
Truly open consultation processes which proactively reach out to civil society and local communities and which could be accompanied by meetings and hearings to explain policy proposals and to allow indepth discussion. In the long term, rolling back undue industry influence requires a broader democratisation that empowers the engagement of EU citizens’ groups in decision making
Overhaul of how advice and expertise is provided during the policy-making process, to minimise the risk that those with a financial stake in an issue are dominant.
New report from Vredeactie documents the symbiotic relationship between the arms industry and the European Union institutions
Following our launch of the ALTER-EU football cards revealing the Juncker Commissioners with the worst levels of corporate bias in terms of their lobby meetings, we have presented the week's social media activity in this Storify story.
Last Tuesday the European Commission hosted what it called the first #EUIndustryDay ever. But at ALTER-EU we see it as part of the excessive intimacy between the Commission and big business, which make every day at the Commission #EUIndustryDay.
You may have heard about the Commission's EU Industry day which is being held on Tuesday 28 February in the Charlemagne building: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=9063 It is organised by DG Grow and will feature Commissioners Juncker, Moedas, Bieńkowska, Katainen and maybe more. Corporate interests with speaking slots include BusinessEurope, European Roundtable of Industrialists and Orgalime and many, many others.