Top European companies still lobbying in secrecy, new research confirms

22 April 2010

Brussels, April 22, 2010 - Lobbying in Brussels by Europe's 50 largest companies is happening in secret despite attempts to secure transparency, confirms new research released today by Friends of the Earth Europe.[1]

Based on an analysis of the entries of the 50 largest EU-based companies on the European Commission's lobby register, the report casts light on the weaknesses of the voluntary registration system launched two years ago.

Talks between the European Commission and Parliament on a joint lobby register have been stalled since elections in June [2]. The European Commissioner responsible for transparency, Maros Sefcovic, was due to restart discussions after taking office in February but the working-group has still not met. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the Commissioner to urgently take action to progress a mandatory joint lobby register.

20 of the 50 largest EU-based companies (40%) are not signed up to the Commission's lobby register. Most of the unregistered companies hold access passes to the European Parliament.

Natacha Cingotti of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Our report shows the limits of the voluntary approach favoured by the European Commission so far. Many companies with a very strong presence in Brussels such as Vodafone, Deutsche Bank, Nestle and E.ON are not signed up at all, and most company entries are not realistic. If the Commission is serious about securing lobbying transparency, it should make registration mandatory."

The study points to unrealistic registration details in the Commission register [3]. When compared to company lobby expenditures in the US - where registration is mandatory for all lobbyists - EU companies declare unfeasibly low budgets for lobbying in Europe. 13 of the 21 companies which are signed up to both the EU and the US lobby registers declare higher lobbying expenditures in the US. BP declares that its lobby expenditure is 17 times higher in the US than in the EU. Bank ING's expenditure is eight times greater in the US. In 2008, three out of the 50 companies declared spending more than one million euro for lobbying in the EU, while 10 did so in the US, despite the main markets of most European companies being in Europe.

At a sector-specific level, the entries reveal very large discrepancies. For instance, the oil industry shows a surprising law of decreasing lobbying: the bigger the company, the less it spends on lobbying. [4]

"In its current form the European Commission's lobby register fails in its goal to safeguard reliable information and to end the culture of secrecy around lobbying in Brussels. To give the public an accurate picture of big company lobbying a joint Parliament and Commission mandatory register is needed that includes names of individual lobbyists, the specific dossiers they are lobbying on, and has stringent financial disclosure requirements," said Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe.




[1] The full study 'Lobbying in Brussels - How much do the top 50 companies in the EU spend?' is available here.

[2] The Inter-Institutional Working Group between the Commission and the Parliament for a joint register was set up in 2008. It is composed of Maros Sefcovic, Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Administration, and MEPs Carlo Casini, Isabelle Durant, Jo Leinen, Diana Wallis.

[3] Eurogroup for Animals and Friends of the Countryside are both part of the top spenders of the Commission's register, declaring more than a million euro lobbying expenditures in 2008. According to the figures, they spend more than twice as much as the biggest oil companies (Shell, BP) or the defence consortium EADS, and more than three times as much as Total, Arcelor Mittal, GDF, or Enel.

[4] Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's top company, declared between 400.000 and 450.000 euro for lobbying in 2008. In addition to being unfeasibly low a lobby budget, this is less than what ENI, number 7, and even less than what Statoil, number 17, respectively declared for the same period.