Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver

EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency

EU-Lobby-Register-still-fail image
New ALTER-EU report shows why the current EU lobby register is still failing to deliver real transparency. Some of the main groups actively lobbying the EU institutions did not register and too many of the register’s entries are not reliable.

This new research published January 27, 2015 by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU), shows how the voluntary approach to EU lobby transparency regulation fails to provide citizens with an accurate picture of the lobby scene in Brussels. Some of the main groups that are actively lobbying the EU institutions have still not registered in the EU’s Transparency Register. These include:

  • Financial lobbyists such as Standard & Poors, City of London Corporation and Credit Suisse;
  • Lobby consultancies, such as EUTOP Brussels;
  • Law firms such as Covington & Burling and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer;
  • Major corporations such as Electrabel, Anglo American and General Motors.

Meanwhile, too many of the register’s entries are unreliable: lobby firms and law firms fail to disclose clients – which is a clear breach of the rules for the register – or they mask their identities behind meaningless acronyms. In addition lobby spending and lobbyist numbers are often under-reported, and there are far too many implausible entries. For example:

  • Google and Novartis list more European Parliament entry passes than the total number of lobbyists they say they employ, which cannot be correct according to the register rules.
  • Goldman Sachs and Honeywell under-report their lobby expenditures as the amounts they declare are less than the amounts they have paid to lobby consultancies.
  • Meanwhile, some entries are simply absurd: BearingPoint, a professional consultancy, states that its lobby turnover is a staggering €552,795,000! [Addendum 28-01-2015: Since this report was published, BearingPoint has contacted us to clarify that the figure declared in its register entry was not, in fact, its lobbying expenses, but rather its annual turnover. Whilst this is an easy mistake to make, this example shows that there is a lack of proactive checking by the Transparency Register Secretariat that the entries are accurate and credible.]

The European Parliament, alongside transparency campaigners including ALTER-EU, have long demanded a tougher approach to EU lobby regulation. It is now time for the European Commission to take up this challenge. The revamped register currently being launched, will not significantly improve the accuracy of the lobby data (as outlined in this report) and will not enable any interested person to really know who is lobbying whom, and how much is being spent on lobbying in Brussels  – surely the key tests of any proper transparency register. Despite numerous commitments to improve the poor quality of information in the register, too little has happened and even the most obvious absurd entries have not been corrected.

The Juncker Commission is now proposing to introduce a so-called mandatory lobby register via an inter-institutional agreement. This is very misleading, as such an inter-institutional agreement would not be binding on lobbyists and thus not properly mandatory.

What is needed is a proposal for EU legislation to introduce a legally-binding EU lobby register, which would ensure that lobbyists are obliged to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities. This would allow the register secretariat to investigate incorrect and misleading entries, and ensure that effective sanctions can be applied in cases of breaches of the register rules. That is the only way to ensure that we know who is influencing the decisions coming out of Brussels, which affect EU citizens’ daily lives.

Sources and more information

ALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparencyALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparency
  • EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.
  • New and Improved? Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.

EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency

Why does the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver?

EU-Lobby-Register-still-fail image
New ALTER-EU report shows why the current EU lobby register is still failing to deliver real transparency. NGOs file complaint about misleading Goldman Sachs registration.

New research published January 27, 2015 shows that too many major lobby organisations, including financial lobbyists the City of London Corporation and Credit Suisse; major corporations such as Electrabel, Anglo American and General Motors; law firms such as Covington & Burling and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; and lobby consultancies, are not listed in the lobby transparency register despite being active in EU lobbying.

The research by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) – a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe – has beeen published on the same day as the re-launch of the Commission-Parliament joint lobby transparency register. The current voluntary approach to lobby regulation does not give an accurate picture of lobbying in Brussels, and the Commission’s proposal for an inter-institutional agreement will not be the solution as it will not be binding on lobbyists. For ALTER-EU, the changes being introduced are minimal and will not solve its fundamental problems.

ALTER-EU’s research shows that too many entries within the register are based on unreliable or even misleading data. Some examples include:

  • Goldman Sachs declares less than €50,000 lobby expenditure in 2013 whilst spending significantly more than that paying others to lobby on its behalf during the same period. This has now been the subject of a complaint by NGOs.
  • Around 150 lobby consultancies, law firms or consultants fail to disclose their clients’ names despite this being a clear breach of the rules.
  • Google and Novartis list more European Parliament accredited pass-holders than their total number of lobbyists which cannot be correct, according to the register rules.
  • More than 200 lobby consultancies, law firms or consultants mask their clients’ identities by naming them only as acronyms, which is another breach of the rules.
  • Consultancy BearingPoint declares that it is not a lobby firm and that it has zero lobbyists but states that its lobby turnover is a staggering €552,795,000!

There are many other anomalous entries detailed in the report.

Paul de Clerck of ALTER EU steering committee member Friends of the Earth Europe says:

The Commission’s proposed inter-institutional agreement to introduce a so-called mandatory lobby register is misleading, as it will not be binding on lobbyists and thus not be mandatory. What is needed is a legislative proposal, to ensure that lobbyists are legally obliged to be fully open and honest about all their lobbying activities and to ensure that strong sanctions can be applied in case of breaches of the register.”

Nina Katzemich of steering committee member LobbyControl added:

Even with the relaunched register, lobbyists can still choose if they want to be be transparent, and they can still appear in the register with totally misleading data. Despite the fact that registering is now a condition for meeting with Commissioners, without fundamental changes to the quality of the register, lobbyists can give a totally wrong impression of their lobbying activities and still get access to high level decision-makers. This is what happened, for example, in the case of Goldman Sachs. Their registration is subject to a complaint by LobbyControl, Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe, filed today.”

Helen Darbishire, of steering committee member Access Info Europe says:

Campaigners, journalists, and all EU citizens have a right to know who is lobbying our decision-makers, on which dossiers, and how much money they spend on lobbying. Full transparency is essential for getting a true picture of lobbying in Brussels and for ensuring balanced input of the views of all stakeholders.”

The European Parliament has long demanded a tougher approach to EU lobby regulation. ALTER-EU calls on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal for a legally-binding lobby register by the end of 2015, with the aim of the new register being operational by mid-2017.

Sources and more information

ALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparencyALTER-EU Europe’s campaign for lobbying transparency
  • EU lobby register: still failing to deliver real transparency, press-releases and PDF January 27, 2015.
  • New and Improved? Why the EU Lobby Register still fails to deliver, PDF January 27, 2015.

What does the black triangle mean?

The black triangle is used in all EU Member States to identify medicines under additional monitoring

The European Union (EU) has introduced a new process to label medicines that are being monitored particularly closely by regulatory authorities. These medicines are described as being under ‘additional monitoring‘.

More information

Feeding Europe with Less Pesticides

Sustainable Agriculture; eliminate dependency on chemical pesticides and to support safe sustainable pest control methods as well as healthier products

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) was founded in 1982 and is a network of over 600 non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals in over 60 countries worldwide working to minimise the negative effects and replace the use of harmful pesticides with ecologically sound alternatives.

Sources and more information

You may have never heard of Ractopamine, but it is common in American Pork

Banned in 160 Nations, Why is Ractopamine in U.S. Pork?

piglet image
The EU will not change its legislation on beef hormones and the drug ractopamine , used as feed addictive in U.S. pork production to rapidly boost growth rates.

If you care about the drugs that make it into the United States’ food supply — or only about what happens to the animals that supply us with meat — you should care about ractopamine. Because of safety concerns, about 160 nations ban or restrict the use of this drug during pig production, including all countries in the European Union, Russia and China. But that hasn’t stopped the U.S. pork industry from feeding it to an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of American pigs to rapidly boost growth rates. If you buy pork at your local supermarket, chances are that it came from a ractopamine-treated pig.

The Food and Drug Administration first approved it 15 years ago, claiming the drug was safe to use. The nonprofit Center for Food Safety cited information from the European Food Safety Authority showing ractopamine can cause increased heart rates in humans. The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy has reported that studies show pigs fed ractopamine can have trouble walking, become more aggressive, and experience other abnormal behavior.

The sixth round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) took place July 14-18 in Brussels, Belgium. While the EU is willing to eliminate tariffs on nearly all goods, it announced publicly it was unwilling to eliminate them on beef, poultry and pork. The EU will not change its legislation on beef hormones and the feed additive ractopamine used in beef and pork production.

Sources and More Information:

  • Banned in 160 Nations, Why is Ractopamine in U.S. Pork?, LiveScience, 47032, July 26, 2014.
  • Producers of pigs picking fight amid European trade deal, The Fresno Bee, 4033927, July 21, 2014.
  • Sixth round of TTIP negotiations conclude, National Pork Producers Council, 267983401, 07/21/2014.

Agreement reached at the European Commission on EU Rules on Clinical Trials of Medicines

Clinical trials: clearer rules, better protection for patients

Clinical trials: clearer rules, better protection for patients
Glenis Willmott led the MPs who proposed the text of the Clinical Trials Regulation. Pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers will be obliged to upload the results of all their European clinical trials to a publicly accessible database, under a provisional agreement reached between Parliament and Council of ministers on EU rules on clinical trials of medicines.

Exciting news from Brussels this morning – law that would mean researchers running a clinical trial in Europe have to register the trial before it begins and to publish summary results within a year of its end is a step closer. The committee of representatives from every EU member state government has agreed with the text of the Clinical Trials Regulation proposed by MEPs led by Glenis Willmott. This agreement now has to be formally ratified by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (probably in early 2014) but today’s provisional agreement is a fantastic result at a very important stage of negotiation and is down to the hard work of the MEPs and thanks to your input. The legislation will need final approval from the European Parliament.

The proposals agreed today include:

  • A publicly accessible EU database, set up and run by European Medicines Agency, containing:
    • A register of all trials carried out in the EU
    • A summary of results for all trials, uploaded 1 year after the end of the trial at the latest
    • As well as a summary understandable for a layperson
  • Clinical Study Reports for all trials used in a marketing authorisation request, whether it is approved, rejected or withdrawn
  • A statement that Clinical Study Reports should, in general, not be considered commercially confidential
  • Fines to be imposed by Member States for non-compliance with the transparency requirements
  • A requirement for all trials to be registered or published in order to be used to back up a new clinical trial authorisation (will encourage the retrospective registering/publishing of old trials)
  • The Clinical Trial Master File retained for at least 25 years.

Glenis Willmott MEP said: “For too long, unflattering studies on new medicines have gone undisclosed. Around half of all trials are never published, usually those with negative or disappointing results. It is vital we know about negative outcomes, otherwise trials can be conducted repeatedly before it becomes public knowledge they are ineffective, or even dangerous.

We are determined to finalise this before the European elections in May. This legislation will set the global gold standard for transparency in clinical trials, and I call on all EU governments to support the agreement”.

Síle Lane, Director of Campaigns, Sense About Science said: “We are very pleased to hear that EU governments have agreed the draft Clinical Trials Regulation which contains proposals that would mean all clinical trials done in Europe will have to be registered and results reported. Well done to Glenis Willmott MEP who has worked very hard to get this agreement. We know Glenis was helped enormously by the hundreds of individuals and organisations who got involved and told MEPs and Ministers their reasons why transparency is vital. Now is the time for companies and academics to listen to all these voices and commit to registering and reporting results from trials done in the past too. There’s no excuse for not publishing results but a huge public health benefit to having a complete picture of what was found in trials conducted on treatments currently available to patients.”

Ben Goldacre, co-founder of AllTrials said: ”This is great news, and patients around the world should be grateful for the fantastic work that has been done on this by politicians in Europe. However we must remember that it only covers new trials, starting from 2014. The vast majority of medicines prescribed today came on the market 5, 10, or 20 years ago. This new law will do nothing to improve the evidence base for those treatments. We still cannot get all the results of all the trials on even the simplest everyday treatments, the antidepressants, the statins, the blood pressure treatments, and more. Those are the drugs that doctors are using right now, and will continue to use for at least a generation. Notably, the law would also do nothing to ensure that researchers and doctors can access all the results of trials on controversial drugs such as Tamiflu.

The campaign for access to trial results began over 20 years ago. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, industry promised that everything had changed, and that everything had become more transparent. We now know that this wasn’t true. It is unacceptable that results from the 1990s and 2000s should continue to be withheld from doctors, researchers and patients. It is unacceptable to say that these trial results were allowed to somehow continue “disappearing”, even while some of the industry was publicly promising greater transparency. With their reckless belief that they could stonewall forever, too much of the industry have stored up a big problem for themselves, and for patients. We need the results of all trials, of all uses, of all the treatments we prescribe today. Without that, we cannot practice medicine safely and effectively.”

Mark Wilson, CEO, Cochrane Collaboration said: “Cochrane is delighted with today’s agreement on clinical trials transparency; a victory for patients, practitioners and policy-makers across Europe, and a clear and compelling message to decision-makers worldwide. The ratification of the agreement in 2014 will be a key milestone on the AllTrials journey to ‘all results reported’ becoming a reality.”

Sources:

European Parliament Press Release: Clinical trials: clearer rules, better protection for patients, 20-12-2013 – 12:09.

Related: Agreement reached in Europe on Clinical Trials Regulation, All Trials Registered | All Results Reported, 20 Dec 2013.

Our posts tagged AllTrials – Ben Goldacre – Clinical Trials – European Commission – European Union.

A Petition to for Full EU Lobby Transparency

Why is this important?

Full EU lobby transparency now
A petition on the Avaaz community

The Petition text:
Dear Mr Wieland Under the current voluntary EU lobby register, too many lobbyists conduct their lobbying secretively and unethically. This does citizens like me, and the public interest, a great disservice. I want to know who is trying to gain influence on EU politics, with what budget, on which issues and on whose behalf. This situation can only be delivered by the transition to a register in which all lobbyists conducting their work in Brussels have to register. It also needs a clear and enforceable ethics code and strong measures to support full transparency while the new register is introduced. As the European Parliament’s Vice-President for Transparency, it is vital that you stand up for lobbying transparency and implement the view of the majority of MEPs who supported the transition to a mandatory lobby register in their vote in May 2011.

Why this is important:
” …Lobbying works in Brussels, partly because it is able to operate in the shadows, and away from the glare of publicity. Thousands of lobbyists boycott the voluntary EU lobby register including virtually all law firms that lobby on behalf of industry clients. Many of the companies and organisations that do sign up, fail to provide comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information on their activities. And unfortunately, the EU institutions seem happy to let this situation continue.

You can help to change this situation. Right now, the lobby register is being reviewed in a series of meetings (mostly held in secret) between the Commission and MEPs. In November, they will finalise their views and it is vital that we do not lose this unique opportunity to demand change… ”

Sources: Full EU lobby transparency now
created by Vicky C, ALTER-EU, on the Avaaz community.

Related posts:

The European Food Safety Authority’s Independence Problem

More than half of experts at the EU food safety authority have conflicts of interest

The European Food Safety Authority's independence problem
European Food Safety Authority says it’s “Committed to ensuring that Europe’s food is safe”

Almost 60% of experts sitting on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) panels have direct or indirect links with industries regulated by the agency, according to an independent screening performed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – an advocacy group that criticizes corporate influence on public policy – and Stéphane Horel – freelance journalist and documentarian.

The CEO October 2013 report identifies major loopholes in EFSA’s independence policy and finds that EFSA’s new rules for assessing its experts, implemented in 2012 after several conflicts of interest scandals, have failed to improve the situation.

The authors warn that this situation casts a severe doubt on the credibility of the scientific output of the key body responsible for food safety at the EU, with the agency issuing recommendations and risk assessments on crucial public health issues such as food additives, packaging, GMOs, contaminants and pesticides.

The main loophole identified in EFSA’s new rules for assessing its experts’ interests is that the agency’s assessment is too narrow, mainly looking at the panel’s specific remit to determine whether there are conflicts of interest. Instead it should consider experts’ wider conflicts of interest, in line with the agency’s broader mandate to guarantee its decisions remain independent from the industry it regulates. The current approach enables dozens of experts with multiple commercial interests (consultancy contracts, research funding, etc) to still be granted full membership of EFSA panels, including a majority of panel chairs and vice-chairs.

The CEO report also shows that EFSA failed to properly implement its own new rules in several instances, and that there is no visible difference between panels assembled under the new policy and those composed using the old policy.

Scientist with extensive Industry Ties quits the EU advisory Panel

Wolfgang Dekant and 16 others had collaborations with companies and industry trade groups

Scientist with extensive industry ties quits EU advisory panel
Prof. Dekant served as an expert for the European Commission for 13 years

Wolfgang Dekant, a German scientist critical of the European Union’s plan to regulate chemicals, with extensive financial ties to regulated industries has resigned from a key scientific committee of the European Commission.

Prof. Dekant, professor of toxicology at the University of Würzburg, was one of 18 scientists who authored a controversial editorial condemning a proposed regulatory policy for endocrine disruptors chemicals.
A September article by Stéphane Horel and Brian Bienkowski  – awarded by a Laurel – revealed that Wolfgang Dekant and 16 others had collaborations with companies and industry trade groups

Read Scientist with extensive industry ties quits EU advisory panelStéphane Horel, Environmental Health News, 15 Oct 2013

Related post: When Scientists attack: a Laurel to Stephane Horel

Collective Redress In Europe – Litigation, Mediation and Arbitration

As national class actions duel in Canada, there is no better time to look to Europe

European Union: Brave New Old World - Collective Redress In Europe - Part 1
DES is cited as an example for collective settlements in The Netherlands

Quite technical but very interesting article which helps understand some of the EU legislation that authorizes collective actions. DES is cited as an example for collective settlements in The Netherlands.

Read European Union: Brave New Old World – Collective Redress In Europe – Part 1, by Louise Moher, January 9 2012

  • The Diverse Approaches to Collective Redress in Europe
  • Seeking Guidance from the European Union on Multi-Jurisdictional Issues
  • Proposals and Debate Regarding European Union Harmonizing Legislation
  • The Jurisdictional Competence of the European Union to Enact Harmonizing Legislation
  • Europe’s Multi-Jurisdictional Nightmare Explained
  • The Royal Dutch/Shell Settlement May Be a Turning Point

Read papers on DES lawsuits.