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European lobbying January 18, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Amsterdam Treaty, Business, European Union, Freedom of speech, International Finance.
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I think that this article in the European Voice deserves a wider readership, so I’m doing my bit.

The hook for the story is simple enough:

One of the biggest tobacco manufacturers in the world led a group of chemical, food, oil, pharmaceutical and other firms in a successful long-term lobbying strategy to shape European Union policy making in their favour, a new study says.

That tobacco company is BAT. The mechanism for this was an item in the Amsterdam Treaty on impact assessments.

The form of impact assessment pushed in this period by BAT […] – and the one ultimately embraced by the EU via changes to the EU Treaty in the Treaty of Amsterdam – was so desired, according to the survey, because they believed that it would hamper the introduction of public smoking restrictions and those against tobacco advertising.

Which is fine, in an uncritical theory, in a democracy: BAT is as entitled as anybody else to push its case. (A little more critique would ask how much cash BAT has to bring to the table compared with others. But that’s another story I don’t go into here.)

Did you notice I edited the quote above, dropping a phrase in the middle of it? “The form of impact assessment pushed in this period by BAT […]”. The original story read “The form of impact assessment pushed in this period by BAT and its front group”.

BAT asked a UK consultancy, Charles Barker, to work out the advantages of pushing such an approach at the UK and EU levels, the study says. According to the scientists, the firm warned BAT that they would need to tread carefully, lobbying through a “front” organisation and enlisting other “big industry names” in support, in particular the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

The front was established by a consultancy company called the European Policy Centre.

In order to win such a change, from 1996 onwards, say the scientists, BAT “relied heavily” on the European Policy Centre (EPC), while also sometimes working with the Weinberg Group, a consultancy firm that had been involved with Philip Morris.

The EPC then went on to form the front group, the “Risk Assessment Forum” on behalf of the tobacco company and its allies, with both BAT and the EPC working to recruit other companies to join the Forum, the new research says.

EPC is stung by the report, with its director pointing that these shenanigans occurred before he joined the consultancy and thet he closed down the Risk Forum.

But the nub, I think comes at the end.

Think-tanks throughout the European capital have consistently refused to join the European Commission’s lobby registry, arguing that think-tanks do not engage in “lobbying.” The EPC, however, was the first think-tank to sign up.

I was tempted to comment or analyse, I won’t. I think the report speaks more eloquently than I could.

Comments»

1. Tomboktu - January 18, 2010

Does anybody here know if the relevant articles on impact assessment have been retained in the treaties through to Lisbon?

If so, I wonder what the chances would be of a campaign getting organised to have it or them amended.

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2. EWI - January 19, 2010

Bjorn Lomborg’s “Copenhagen Consensus”, Nigel Lawson’s ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’, Francis Ruane’s ESRI and the Climate Sciences Committee of the Royal Irish Academy.

Name the missing link.

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3. EWI - January 19, 2010

Hell, why not – Geraldine Kennedy’s Irish Times as well.

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4. Gypsy - January 19, 2010

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