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Dear Kairos readers,

We hear it every day, it is the crisis in Europe, and, because the EU is not (yet?) a democracy, decisions are taken without any real possibility for the citizens to contest them by sending their leaders back with a ballot: we can hardly change one leader out of 27 at a time in the Council (the states), and the European Parliament has hardly any say on the euro crisis for example. But some think that one of the reasons for the crisis is precisely that Europe is already too democratic: democracy is slow and unpredictable, and therefore bad for business. The proposals put forward by the powerful European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), which brings together the CEOs of dozens of multinationals, would ensure that business interests take precedence over all other considerations in the future and that  » the immediate creation of economic growth is the first priority of all public policies « . A January 2012 document thus proposes, among other things, to revise European legislation according to the following criteria:

- Existing legislation: identify legal elements  » that constrain growth and could be removed without impacting fundamental protections « ;

- pending legislation:  » moratorium on all business-related regulations, including enforcement of existing rules at both EU and state level that do not have a proven positive effect on economic growth »;

- future legislation: creation of an independent mechanism or body  » to ensure that all business-related provisions are assessed on the basis of their expected effect on economic growth and, crucially, their initial cost to business.

Growth or death! With such a device, you can vote in any direction you want, the result is guaranteed. If the ERT were only a small group of market fundamentalists, this would be of no consequence, but it should be noted that the proposals of this organization have already had a decisive impact on the creation of the euro or the current discussions on the reform of the economic governance of the EU (European Semester and TSCG(1) The European Commission has already been given extensive powers to intervene in economic matters), and here and there we hear prominent politicians taking up this type of proposal, such as Mario Monti, the head of the Italian government. Vigilance is therefore required!(2)

On July 24, following a complaint by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), the European Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the membership of Mario Draghi, the current President of the European Central Bank (ECB), in a financial sector lobby, the « Group of Thirty ».(3) In its own words, the group, which brings together some of the most influential figures in the international banking world (public and private),  » influences the current and future structure of the international financial system by providing practical recommendations to public and private policymakers. The independence of the ECB, enshrined in its statutes(4)However, the fact that the President of the ECB himself (as well as his predecessor Jean-Claude Trichet) belongs to an organization that has in the past defended positions that served the interests of private banks has apparently not shocked anyone until now. The case received some media attention at the end of July and the defense of the ECB administration, which argues in turn that Mr. Draghi has the right — and even the duty! — to meet with everyone, whether they belong to the Group of Thirty in their « personal capacity » or whether this lobby is in fact not a lobby, is hardly convincing. What will the Ombudsman’s decision be and when will it be made? Whatever it is, the mere fact that Mr. Draghi was able to become President of the ECB while remaining a member of this organization speaks volumes about the weight of private interests in Brussels. An example? Our recent survey of the composition of DG Enterprise’s expert groups, which advise this European Commission administration on issues such as « societal needs » or the « transition to a low-carbon economy », shows that two-thirds of these advisors represent multinationals.(5)

The excessive proximity between public leaders and private interests is certainly not new in the capital of Europe, but it is all the more serious because the stakes are high. For example, the current discussions on the funding of research in the European Union (we are talking about a budget of more than 80 billion euros over 7 years), will play an important role in determining which research projects will be supported, and therefore, also what our future will be. Open source technologies for the greatest number or monopolies protected by patents? Precautionary principle or use of 500 million European citizens as guinea pigs? The industry has already managed to secure control of $20 billion for projects it will choose itself(6)and our investigation of the current lobbying battle over funding for agricultural research projects shows that supporters of the « bioeconomy », a vision of turning nature into resources that can be exploited by industry, outnumber environmentalists, consumers or local public authorities represented in Brussels by at least four to one.(7)

Such research would be easier to conduct if the Commission took lobbying transparency more seriously, so that we at least know who is lobbying on what issue with a few clicks (as the US system allows) rather than spending weeks piecing together the puzzle; but we are far from it. The « Dodgy data » report of the ALTER-EU alliance (of which CEO is a member), published last June, shows that not only are hundreds of organizations and companies still missing from the Commission’s lobbying transparency register, including almost all law firms, but that the data in the register, provided by the lobbyists themselves, is unclear, outdated, unreliable and not comparable. As a result, it is still unclear whether, for example, the recently launched « European Citizens’ Initiative(8) calling for the repeal of the EU’s 2009 energy and climate package — which sets a target of a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 — is an industry-led or not so industry-led public relations exercise(9) . It is known, however, that the oil industry, for example, has financed the activities of climate skeptics for many years in the United States. To be continued!

Have a good start,

Martin Pigeon

for Corporate Europe Observatory

Notes et références
  1. Contre le Traité sur la Stabilité, la Coordination et la Gouvernance », J. Gleizes, Reporterre, 1er septembre 2012
  2. The Roundtable goes for full conquest », Corporate Europe Observatory, 13 juillet 2012, traduction FR Musée de l’Europe et de l’Afrique « La Table ronde des industriels européens met les bouchées doubles pour soumettre la société à l’industrie
  3. Médiateur Européen, affaire 1339/2012/FOR
  4. Article 130 du TFUE: « Ni la BCE, ni les banques centrales nationales (BCN), ni un membre quelconque de leurs organes de décision ne peuvent solliciter ni accepter des instructions des institutions ou organes de l’Union européenne (UE), des gouvernements des États membres de l’Union européenne ou de tout autre organisme. »
  5. « DG Enterprise must kick corporate lobbyists out of expert groups », Corporate Europe Observatory, 12 juillet 2012
  6. « EU Research funds: a €20 billion gift to industry! », Corporate Europe Observatory, 13 juillet 2012
  7. « L’agrobusiness essaye de s’emparer du PAC-tole de la recherche européenne ! », Corporate Europe Observatory, traduction FR Les Amis de la Terre France, 9 juillet 2012
  8. L’initiative citoyenne européenne est une disposition récente, issue du Traité de Lisbonne, permettant à un million de citoyens qui signent une pétition de demander à la Commission, qui a le monopole de l’initiative législative dans le système européen, d’examiner leur demande.
  9. « Climate sceptics launch Citizens Initiative to suspend EU climate targets — who’s paying? », Corporate Europe Observatory, 23 août 2012

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