EU must curb corporate lobbying power — NGO | News | DW | 29.04.2019
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EU must curb corporate lobbying power — NGO

Corporate influence at the EU level needs to be reined in, LobbyControl has warned. Businesses have been accused in its latest report of using incredible lobbying power to advance their own interests.

LobbyControl on Monday accused the European Union of doing too little to combat corporate influence. A new report by the German NGO said there are insufficient rules to limit such influence, which takes place through expert groups, meetings between civil servants and lobbyists or informal channels.

"Corporations can draw on an incredible lobbying power to push through their interests," said the report's author, Nina Katzemich.

The report said EU member governments were some of the main lobbyists in Brussels, with many countries pushing for EU rules and decisions that reflect the interests of their national industries.

Tax avoidance and emissions test delays

Germany, it noted, had used its influence to weaken and delay rules on tax evasion and diesel emissions tests.

The EU allows "corporations and the rich to move their assets to shadow financial centres and thus evade their tax responsibility," it said.

"Through tax avoidance and optimization, EU member states lost €50 to €70 billion in tax revenue every year," said LobbyControl political director Imke Dierssen.

The report said the recruitment of politicians as lobbyists, the dependence of the EU's civil service on corporate expertise and lobbyists' privileged access to decision makers through exclusive events were the main sources of corporate influence.

Some 70 percent of representatives on an EU expert group set up to discuss emissions tests for cars came from the automotive industry. According to the EU Parliament, this group helped delay a more effective test for vehicle emissions by years.

"Corporations can rely on an incredible lobbying power to assert their interests," said Katzemich. "Two-thirds of the 25,000 lobbyists who influence laws, politics and public opinion in Europe with an annual budget of 1.5 billion euros represent business interests."

Read more: Watchdog criticizes lax anti-lobbying rules for EU politicians

EU 'shield' 

Dierssen called on the EU to introduce more regulations and transparency. "Europe could be a shield against corporate power," she said.

"This has been demonstrated by […] many EU laws, such as mandatory catalytic converters or pollution control rules, which in some cases significantly improved air quality in the long term. We need more such positive impulses from Europe. More lobby transparency and strict rules for lobbyists are essential."

Read more: How non-EU actors are lobbying Brussels

kw/amp (AFP, dpa)

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