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Totally dominant lobbies in a downgraded Europe – (part 2)

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.”

2 - Crisis response: austerity and attacks on social rights

Key findings

After the six-pack came many other measures, including the European Semester, the two-pack and the Fiscal Compact 13, all of which had basically the same purposes: to impose austerity, to push for reforms of labour laws, and to increase the influence of the EU institutions in general and the Commission in particular on member state budgets. This increased control was to become a single-minded attack on social expenditure in an attempt to make European economies more 'competitive'”

The Commission was cheered on by the business community in this process, not least by two of the major players on the corporate lobbying scene, BusinessEurope and the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT).”

Right from the inception of the eurocrisis in 2010, the type of response favoured by the Commission was clear: austerity and attacks on labour rights and on pensions. The Commission and the Council responded swiftly along these lines, and the first proposals were tabled in June and September 2010. The latter proposal was the so-called “six pack” which strengthened the EU rules meant to make member states stick to strict fiscal policies – which in times of crisis would mean harsh austerity. The six-pack was about wages as well, in that a mechanism was introduced that allows the Commission to keep a close eye on wage developments in member states, and suggest sanctions if wages were going up too much according to a predefined threshold.”

BusinessEurope responded very positively to these six proposals, and felt its own effort to influence developments had once again borne fruit: 'We are glad to see a large number of these recommendations reflected in the legislative package proposed by the European Commission on 29 September', BusinessEurope said in a statement.”

One of the mechanisms adopted in the course of the crisis is 'the European Semester'. The European Semester is a procedure which makes a long standing wish of the European Roundtable of Industrialists come true. Back in 2002 the ERT wrote in a position paper, that 'at the drafting stage, the implications of national budgets and of major national fiscal policy measures [should be] reviewed at the level of the Union'. At that point, the time for this to be adopted was not ripe. The proposal was suggested by the Commission in 2005, but rejected by the Council. But with the crisis, things changed, and in 2011 the first European Semester was carried out.”

Under the European Semester the Council votes on recommendations for each member states’ economic policies, including for that of their labour markets. The proposals are prepared by the Commission, and so far it has been a pretty straightforward affair on some issues. There is a remarkable resemblance – if not complete identity – between the proposals by the Commission on labour and the wish lists of the European employers’ lobby group, BusinessEurope, and the results have been reduced labour protection laws in most member states. And generally the Commission’s proposal have been adopted by the Council.”

In March 2013 a meeting hosted by the German Government took place in Berlin. Guests were the French President Hollande, the Commission President Barroso, and a large number of CEOs of European corporations, members of the renowned EU big business lobby group the European Roundtable of Industrialists. The agenda of the meeting was nothing short of the European Union’s next big steps on the road to a common economic policy. In connection with the meetings, the ERT stressed its desire to see 'modernised job protection measures including reducing redundancy notice periods and severance payments in exchange for training for new jobs'.”

"Whether the ERT will succeed in framing the agenda of EU economic policies in this way remains to be seen. At the end of 2014, the European Council is set to decide on whether mandatory rules to centrally direct the economic policies of member states should be adopted, either via EU legislation or a separate 'competitiveness pact'. But proposals from the French and German governments, backed by the Commission and co-authored by some of the biggest in big business, would stand a pretty good chance."


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