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Totally dominant lobbies in a downgraded Europe – (part 1)

Barroso administration: Golden medal in serving interests

A research by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

Through the course of the crisis, attempts by corporations and corporate lobby groups to influence EU policies have probably been more successful than ever, in part due to a close relationship with the Commission.”

Corporate Europe Observatory has gathered a lot of evidence over time and covering many different areas that shows how the Commission is easily captured by corporate interests. This report is an attempt to produce a condensed version of how the Commission has come to act on behalf of corporations over the past five years, focusing on climate policies, agriculture and food, finance, economic, and fiscal policies.”

1 - The corporate trade and investment agenda

Key findings

During the past four years, DG Trade [Commission’s Directorate General for Trade] has negotiated far-reaching free trade agreements for their friends in the business sector with nearly the whole of the rest of the world. Some negotiations have been concluded: the controversial EU-Colombia-Peru trade deal, for example, which implies gross violations of human rights, and the rights of trade unionists in particular (Colombia has the highest number of trade union murders in the world); or the infamous Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which was eventually axed by the European Parliament when millions took to the streets fearing that ACTA would allow corporations to censor the internet.”

In the past four years DG Trade has also embraced sweeping powers for foreign investors. They have granted big business the right to claim multi-million dollar compensations for democratic laws to protect the environment or public health – just because these laws allegedly reduced business profits.”

The ongoing trade negotiations between the EU and India are one of many examples of how DG Trade puts big business in the driving seat. If the deal is secured, it will threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers, fisherfolk, street vendors, and indigenous people in India. For example, the Indian retail sector will be opened to competition from EU supermarket giants such as Tesco and Carrefour. There are 33 million small scale traders in India. How can they compete with cost-cutting, supermarket style?”

The Commission has assured European retail and other industries that, “we must decide together what we want, then work out how to get it” from India. In countless exclusive meetings and email exchanges with the EU‘s negotiating team, business has been given sensitive information about the on-going talks – information that was later withheld from public interest groups – and has been invited to provide details about problems they face in penetrating the Indian market.”

EU-US negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are another example of the privileged access and undue influence that the Commission grants industry over its trade policy. An internal Commission document obtained through the EU’s access to information rules shows that, to prepare the trade talks, DG Trade has had at least 119 meetings behind closed doors with large corporations and their lobby groups – but it has had only a handful with trade unions and consumer groups. When negotiations were announced in February 2013, not a single such meeting with public interest groups had taken place – compared to dozens with business lobbyists. The result is an unsavoury big-business-first agenda for the TTIP. The leaked Commission proposal for the so called “regulatory cooperation” in the agreement, for example, mirrors joint plans by industry associations BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce which would essentially allow business lobbyists to “co-write legislation” in the future. This would allow corporations to rewrite rules in the financial sector, food labelling requirements or environmental standards to be more compatible with their interests – to the detriment of consumers, workers and the stability of our economies.”

In response to growing public outcry over the investor rights in TTIP, the European Commission has just halted negotiations and published a public consultation on the issue, which will run until early July.”


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