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How much do the top 50 companies in the EU spend?

22 April 2010
by foeeurope -- last modified 05 May 2010

Lobbying in Brussels by Europe's 50 largest companies is happening in secret despite attempts to secure transparency, confirms new research released by Friends of the Earth Europe.


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. 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. 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.

"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. 

The full study 'Lobbying in Brussels - How much do the top 50  companies in the EU spend?' is available for download on the Friends of the Earth Europe website.

Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for sustainable and just societies and for the protection of the environment, unites more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International.

Friends of the Earth Europe