Brussels bank lobby must be cut down to size

9 April 2014

Brussels bank lobby must be cut down to size

The numerical strength of the financial lobby in Brussels is even greater than was expected: this was the most significant result included today in a report from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) entitled The Fire Power of the Financial Lobby. The report shows that the financial sector spends more than €120 million per annum on lobbying in Brussels, for which it has available more than 1,700 lobbyists. Erik Wesselius, No 4 on the SP’s list of candidates for May’s European elections , says that ‘we knew that the bank lobby has, since the banking crisis, used every means to influence European decisions affecting the sector, but the figures which have now been published exceed all previous estimates. Banks, investors and speculators have their fat fingers in the pie when it comes to Brussels decision-making. The SP wants to see a Europe in which the interests of the citizens come first, and not those of the banks.’

Wesselius was co-founder of Corporate Europe Observatory, and has long been involved in researching the big business lobby’s influence in Brussels. ‘If I’m elected then I’ll be working hard to tackle the bank lobby’s influence,’ he says. ‘I want to see a drastic reduction, for instance, in the number of bank lobbyists who sit on the Commission’s advisory groups. In addition, European Commission officials shouldn’t be spending so much time sitting around tables with bank lobbyists, and instead should be spending more time listening to representatives of other interests, such as trade unions, consumer organizations and small business groups. Also, entry into the European register of lobbyists, in which for example is listed how much a lobbyist is spending on influencing policy, must at last be made obligatory.’

The SP has long fought for stricter rules governing the conduct of the estimated 25,000 Brussels-based lobbyists. Recent years have seen a number of scandals involving the alleged bribery by lobbyists of Euro-MPs and a European Commissioner. In the SP’s view these demonstrated the need for stricter rules. All SP candidates in May’s elections have signed the declaration by lobby transparency group ALTER-EU and in doing so have committed to supporting six actions, including making public which lobbyists they have spoken to when formulating legislative proposals. The ALTER-EU declarations will be officially launched next week.

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