25 September 2012

Corporate Europe Observatory is a pressure group committed to raising awareness of the influence of big business on the European Commission.  It promotes itself as exposing the power of corporate lobbying on the EU law making process. It wants much tighter protection of “the public interest”.

That the Commission’s budget relating to expert groups which comment on draft legislation has been blocked by MEPs, is an acknowledgment of wider concern about improper influence.  

Corporate Europe Observatory has posted a video on its website about the way officials are subjected to vested interests and how lobbying is effective in shaping the way laws are drafted. The group is concerned that the extent of the problem is not recognised by some at the Commission.

“… some within the Commission do not see any problem with this state of affairs. They seem to think that taking advice from a room full of bankers does not influence their perception of what needs to be done…” The claim is that business interests are influencing EU directives that govern much of the legislation of member states. The commercial sector supplies the experts on how business should be done and who “….not surprisingly seek to influence the rules in their own interests…”

Joint research by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation and Corporate Europe Observatory into banking and finance sector regulation suggests that EU reforms were heavily influenced by leading bankers sitting on expert advisory groups. The research supports the position that corporate interests dominate a number of areas of the Commission’s work.

Corporate Europe Observatory seeks a “…profound change in attitude and working culture.  The Commission has to demonstrate that it is not in the pocket of big business and that it does not take decisions only in the interests of a small minority ( “the 1%”) but for society at large..”

The  private member’s bill on Lobbying Disclosure currently with the Government Administration Committee seeks “… to bring a measure of transparency and public disclosure around the lobbying activity directed at members of Parliament and their staff, and in so doing to enhance trust in the integrity and impartiality of democracy and political decision making…”