Thursday, 18 June 2009

DG Environment lets transparency boycotters off the hook

We have in this blog reported extensively about the boycott by Brussels-based think tanks of the transparency register. We have also congratulated Commissioner Kallas for taking on Friends of Europe as a particularly obvious example of a corporate-funded think tank that really must register. It is now unfortunately becoming clear that other parts of the Commission fail to back - and even undermine - Kallas´ efforts to increase the pressure on Friends of Europe. The Commission's DG Environment has decided to give Friends of Europe a very prominent role in its annual 'Green Week', which happens next week.

On its website Friends of Europe proudly announces a conference next Tuesday and Wednesday titled "Climate change: Keys to a concerted policy shift": "This European Policy Summit, co-organised by Friends of Europe, Unilever and Microsoft with the support of Dow, UNICA (the Brazilian sugarcane industry association) and the Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment (ACE), is part of the official programme of the European Commission's Green Week. The event will take place in the European Commission's Charlemagne Building in Brussels on June 23 and 24, 2009." Among the speakers are high-level Commission officials like Jos Delbeke and Claus Sørensen, as well as representatives of the sponsoring corporations and industry lobby groups.

Hosting this official event inside the Commission's Charlemagne Building (next door to the Berlaymont headquarters) is clearly a scoop for Friends of Europe, but a major setback for Kallas and anyone else who cares about lobby transparency. Beyond transparency concerns, one can really wonder why DG Environment outsources the organising of Green Week events to a think tank that not only systematically allows debates to be sponsored by corporations and their lobby groups, but also gives these sponsors a prominent place in the debate panels (and most likely also in the shaping of the programs). For agrofuels lobby UNICA and the other corporate sponsors, who have all been involved in greenwash in the past, the debates next week are a dream-come-true image-building opportunity. But allowing these firms to buy a seat on the panels raises serious questions about due process and the credibility of the Green Week events. DG Environment has failed to safeguard its Green Week from greenwash.

Back to the lobby transparency issue: not only Friends of Europe is missing in the Commission's transparency register. Of the five corporate sponsors of the Policy Summit, Dow, Unilever and Microsoft are registered, but UNICA and the Alliance for Beverage Cartons & the Environment are not. Wouldn’t it be high time for Mr. Kallas to have a chat with Environment Commissioner Dimas about a coherent approach to make lobbyists join his voluntary register?

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