Which companies are oiling the cogs of EU legislation?
If Europe’s lobbying register is correct, oil giants like Shell and BP are spending just a few hundred thousand euros a year on EU lobbying, sums that are dwarfed by the millions they spend across the Atlantic.
Europe’s voluntary Register of interest representatives, launched in 2008, shows that Shell and BP spent 400,000-450,000 euros each on lobbying in 2008.
Meanwhile the U.S. Lobbying Disclosure Act database, which companies are obliged to fill out by law, shows that Shell spent $2.3 million on lobbying in 2009 and BP $4.6 million.
This lobbying-cost-saving in Europe is even more of a surprise given that both companies have notched up some significant successes in Europe, such as helping to secure potentially billions of euros for Carbon Capture and Storage technology. NGOs say that kind of lobbying is no mean feat, involving sponsoring expensive receptions and helping to draw up suggestions for EU legislation.
While the United States is a vast marketplace for oil companies, and there is long-established lobbying culture in Washington, it is still surprising that spending on liaising with the European Commission, European Parliament and other relevant bodies and advisers is so relatively small. The EU, consisting of 27 countries and a total population of more than 500 million, is a powerful economic region where big, global companies want to ensure their voice is being heard.
But at least BP and Shell have taken the time to fill out Europe’s voluntary register.
According to Lobbying in Brussels, a report by Friends of the Earth, around 40 percent of Europe’s top 50 companies are absent from the register completely, even though many of them have access passes to the European Parliament, which suggests they are involved in lobbying of some description or other.
“The register is voluntary and its disclosure requirements are very weak: organisations are not compelled to disclose the names of individual lobbyists, nor the specific dossiers being lobbied on. Financial requirements are very broadly defined, easily allowing for mis- and under-reporting,” the Friends of the Earth report says.
Perhaps as lobbying becomes more ingrained in Brussels, and a brighter spotlight is shone on its participants, the register will switch from voluntary to compulsory. At that point it will be interesting to see exactly which companies are lobbying and how much they are spending on it.