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21 March, 2017

The army of lobbies has occupied the EU


An army is stationed in Brussels. Not only are the special forces of the Belgian armed forces, patrolling the streets of a city that is in a constant state of emergency. It is mainly the "airborne battalions" by approximately 91,000 employees of 9,860 lobbies who ensure that there will be neither a single decision which, even accidentally, will defend the interests of citizens against private enterprises.

With an annual budget of 1.5 billion euro, they can buy, blackmail or simply ... hire almost any employee of the European institutions they wish.

These numbers do not provide of course the full picture since they concern the lobbies that are voluntarily recorded in the corresponding archive. What is certain is that about 6,200 lobbyists have special access cards in the European Parliament (and they use them almost daily), while almost 30,000 people live and work steadily in Brussels with the sole aim to serve the interests of multinationals in the EU decision making mechanisms.

The organization Alter EU which studies the relationships of lobbies with EU institutions, estimates that about 83% of the meetings on a daily basis between lobbyists with senior European Commission officials are not recorded, while for middle and lower executives of the Commission the percentage exceeds 92%. This means that pronouncements made by Juncker, that he would put the uncontrolled action of big lobbies in order, were cheap fireworks.

In several cases the intervention of lobbies becomes glaring when lazy commissioners and MEPs do not even bother to rewrite the texts taken from multinational companies. A few years ago the German electronic WDRTV network identified two such incidents involved the Christian Democrat MEP Burkhard Balz and Markus Ferber of the Christian Social Union (CSU). Both had submitted proposals on the functioning of the banking system and the speculation in stock markets, which were contained in documents of banking lobbies in virtually identical terms. Especially when asked about the "coincidence" in the texts, they argued that the lobbies ... stole their ideas.

The action of the lobbies starts from the simple daily contacts with the approximately 30,000 European Commission officials and reaches the formal involvement of lobbyists in the functioning of the institutions. Specifically, the Commission operates under the watchful eye of the famous groups of experts (expert groups) which would supposedly represent the interests of ... civil society. A recent survey by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has shown that, on average, these groups consist of 70% of multinational representatives, 15% of NGO members, while only 2% of their members comes from unions. Many times, the only limitations on the selection of officials, comes from international organizations (such as the WTO which prohibits tobacco companies to engage executives in a public health expert panels), as the European Commission has no problem to place, e.g. accounting firms specializing in offshore companies, in groups that determine tax policy.

The result of these processes, is that the pressure regime in the EU has become much more dark and uncontrollable, related to the USA, where the presence of lobbies was born and institutionalized (according to a version of the story, the term lobby comes from the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, where the US President Ulysses Grant was doing business with the entrepreneurs of the time). The EU officials have been proved very good students of the US in the phenomenon of "revolving door", i.e., the jumping of officials in the boards of colossal enterprises and vice versa. The former vice-president of the European Commission, Étienne Davignon, who has a background in some of the major energy companies of Europe, was the first mover in the 80s, while the Barroso passage to Goldman Sachs merely confirmed what everyone knew: that you don't have to be in the board of a bank to be its employee.

The biggest change occurred after the crisis of 2007-2008 was the big enlargement of the banking lobby that literally invaded the highest policy organs, violating even the rotten rules of EU transparency.

Only the financial sector employs 1,700 lobbyists who have 120 million euros per year at their disposal to "buy" the EU conscience - that is thirty times more money from the budget of all trade unions, NGOs, and consumer protection groups involved with the functioning of the EU. This means practically that for every employee of the European Union who deals with the banking issues, correspond four representatives of the lobbies.

In the "heart" of the banking invasion resides the famous Institute of International Finance (IIF). The «super-weapon" of bankers was created in 1983 to represent the largest financial institutions of the world against developing countries, such as Mexico, which were sinking into debt crises.

Contrary to what some argue, the EU is not occupied by large companies, but created by them. Since the time of agreements of Coal and Steel and later through the Maastricht Treaty (through which specifically the lobbies of bankers and industrialists like AMUE, imposed the creation of the euro), the lobbies of the European bourgeoisie were shaping every last detail of the EU policy.

Article by Aris Chatzistefanou, translated from the original source:

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