The EU is neoliberal to its core and captured by corporate interests
The aptly named – Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – “is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making”. It is relentless in exposing the corporate scams that result in European Union laws being biased towards corporations at the expense of the well-being of the broader population. The research results they publish are diametrically opposed to the claims by the Europhile Left, especially those from Britain, that posit that the EU is the exemplar of global organisation, defending workers’ rights and all manner of good things, and with just a few reforms here and there is the hope for a progressive future. CEO’s most recent report (February 6, 2019) – Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests – allow us to see how the EU machinery has turned the Member States into a “channel for corporate interests” – “middlemen for corporate interests”. My position is that CEO has it right and the Europhiles a dreaming.
In 2018, CEO with some of its NGO allies “submitted freedom of information requests to 19 permanent representations in Brussels to obtain information about the extent of their contacts with lobbyists”.
They found that:
Only two member states both stored and released full data on lobbying: Romania and the Netherlands. Ireland only released the data relating to meetings with their Permanent Representative and Deputy, not lower officials. No other permanent representation released the data requested.
Which should tell you a lot.
The ‘Permanent Representation’ represents the interests of the EU Member States to the European Commission in Brussels. Each nation, typically, has a huge number of workers across all their government departments, in the Permanent Representation.
They wine and dine representatives from other EU Member States, the Commission and members of the European Parliament.
The Permanent Representations feed into all the major EU institutions – the Council of the EU and its rotating Presidency, the European Council, the Committees of the EU.
Each Member State has a Permanent Representation and they formally work through the Permament Representatives Committee (COREPER).
The collated – Data for Permanent Representations’ lobbying – collected by the CEO researchers reveals how these “permanent representations are a major target for corporate lobbyists”.
The corporate lobbyists work like beavers in Brussels to ensure the lower level officials of each Member State are on the same page and acting in the interests of the corporations.
CEO’s research shows that “when corporate interests win, the public interest loses out”.
They also point to the basic architecture of the European Union as creating an organisation structure that engenders this type of capture.
1. “Elite corporate lobbies target the European Council of member state leaders, with access that NGOs and trade unions cannot match. For example the regular meetings of the European Round Table of Industrialists bring together 50 bosses of major European multinational companies with the leaders of France, Germany, and the Commission President.”
2. “Rotating presidencies of the Council of the EU provide a key target for corporate lobbies … corporate sponsorship of rotating presidencies now appears to be standard”.
3. “The EU’s complex and opaque committee structure benefits corporate lobbies with the resources and capacity to influence the final outcomes.”
4. “Brussels-based lobby consultancy firms provide specific services to corporate lobbies aimed at influencing member states” – so-called ‘lobby forums’ abound.
5. Data shows, for example, that 73 per cent of the meetings held by the Dutch Permanent Representation’s officials were with corporate interests “and only 15 per cent with NGOs or trade unions”.
The point is that to clean excessive access and influence requires root-and-branch changes – meaning the EU has to be abandoned in its current form and reconstructed as an intergovernmental agreement should the nation states determine there is a need for that level of cooperation.
Progressive reforms mooted such as an European unemployment insurance scheme will do nothing at all to change this endemic cancer.
The fact that the progressives want to just tinker around the edges must seem like gold to the corporate interests who have captured the EU decision-making structures.
I agree with him.