By Yiorgos Vassalos
Corporate Europe Observatory has been campaigning to highlight the influence of corporate lobbyists at the heart of the European Commission's law-making process because we believe that change in the rules are desperately needed to protect the public interest.
Research carried out with the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has shown how key figures from the banking industry dominated the expert groups advising the European Commission on reform of banking regulation. Previous research found that more than eighty per cent of the non-government expert groups set up by DG Internal Market were captured by the financial industry. A more recent investigation into DG Enterprise and Industry's expert groups found that two thirds are dominated represent corporate interests. The situation is quite similar in other Commission departments.
The video shows how corporate lobbyists seek to influence the early stages of the legislative process. Getting to the Commission officials before a law is drafted is the best-way to make sure their interests are recognised.
More worryingly, the video also shows how some within the Commission do not see any problem with this state of affairs. They seem to think that taking advice from a room full of bankers does not influence their perception of what needs to be done. Perhaps if they took the time to listen to a room full of small business people, or workers who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the financial crisis, they might reach a different understanding of the problem.
Corporate Europe Observatory thinks it is important that more people realise how laws are made in the European Union. They should know that the EU directives that govern more and more laws at member state level are being influenced by business interests who have been accepted as the experts on how business should be done. And not surprisingly seek to influence the rules in their own interests.
So when it comes to crucial issues that affect the whole of society – such as the regulation of pollution from cars or the rules which affect how much the banks can speculate – they realise that they are being governed, not in their interests, but in the interests of a corporate elite.
MEPs had blocked part of the Commission's budget for expert groups but have now agreed to work with the Commission to draft new guidelines. We urge MEPs to ensure the Commission tightens up the rules on expert groups. They have the power to block part of the Commission's budget for these groups again if they are not happy with the results. CEO will be monitoring progress and hopes the Commission will act both to tighten the rules – and make sure they are implemented fast.
Yiorgos Vassalos is a campaigner and researcher with Corporate Europe Observatory