Lobbies Under Watch in Brussels

Not all the lobbies in Brussels  follow the EU transparency rules. The anti-corruption  organization Transparency International verified that different organizations registered in the EU Transparency Register are not compliant with the data they filled on the Transparency Register. Their data regarding their activities and lobbying budget are quite often not transparent.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Lobby in Brussels with not so credible budget

Since January 2015 the EU introduced  new rules to the Register: it is mandatory to describe the the main EU initiatives, policies and legislative files followed by the organisation.  According to the Transparency International report, 293 organizations did not give any information on that. There are two ways to explain this situation, as the anti-corruption organization explains: either they have no business being on the register as they have no activity to declare or they are not declaring their activities covered by the register which would be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct.

More in dept, 3.844 lobbies declare to spend in lobbying less than the minimum average and 171 of those declare they do not have any lobbying budget. But that’s implausible as Transparency International affirms in its report. Taking in consideration the total costs declared for a full time lobbyst , according with the anti-corruption organization it is possible to show that many of the lobbies declarations are not credible. It is not plausible that a large number of lobbies hire staff with a salary lower than the minimum for a regular contract , without counting the costs of offices and other expenditures. Furthermore, there are organizations declaring to spend less than the minimum salary for a trainee. In Belgium the minimum cost for an intern or for a “contract de immersion professionelle” is 12.894,89 euros per year.

It could be credible that many organizations work with volunteers and trainees,  but it is not possible that the entire working force of a lobby’s office is based on volunteers. That’s contestable to at least 1.193 consultancies, corporations and industries associations among these organizations.

There are also 121 organizations declaring to dedicate to lobbying less than 10 thousands par year despite they give an address of office in Brussels. This little amount it is no enough to pay even just a rent of a really small office space in Brussels, especially in the EU area, where usually lobbies have their offices.

While there are also opposite cases : some organizations declare more than 1 million expenditure for lobbyist. Even the best funded organizations with credible entries barely spend half of this amount, according  to the Transparency International data. It is more plausible that these organizations, 93% of them do no have any office in Brussels, gave erroneous informations.

Transparency International sent 4.253 official complaints to the Secretariat of Trasparency Register, regarding organizations such as Boeing, Yahoo, Wal-mart, Rio-Tinto, Thalys, Brussels Airlines and KBC Bank.

Brussels lobbies in numbers

According with the last updated numbers collected by Transparency International lobbies registered in the Transparency Register are 7.916 and the lobbiests accreditated to the EU Parliament, that’s possible to follow updated numbers in the interactive website . Corporations are the mostly influent on the EU decisons making process: between December 2014 and June 2015 they obtained 4,318 meetings with EU Commission representatives, 75% of the meetings. While the 18% of the meetings took place with NGO, 4 % with think tank, 2 % with local authorities. BusinnesEurope, according to the data, is on the top rank for meetings (44), with a budget for lobbying of 4 millions of euro and at the moment it counts 29 lobbiests, 23 of them are accreditated to the EU Parliament. After in the rank, are Google, General Electric and Airbus that declared between 25 and 29 meetings each and Eurocommerce with 26. Strong influence comes from the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic): 26 meetings, 45 lobbiests, 24 badges for the EU Parliament, and financial sources around 10,100 million euros. Also the NGO have strong lobbies : WWF and Greenpeace count between 25 and 29 meetings with EU institutions with 1million euros available for lobbying. Microsoft, Exxon Mobil and Shell spend even more : between 4,5 millions and 5 millions of euro par year. The Commissioner for Energy and Climate Canete and the Commissioner for the Digital Economy Oettinger host most of the meetings. Transports, Financial Markets and Jobs and Growth are also sectors of interest for lobbiests .

@IreneGiuntella

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