The Belgian daily newspaper De Standaard has this week published an interesting series of articles on EU lobbying. While one article covers the critical perspective of lobby watchdog groups like Corporate Europe Observatory, De Standaard also published a lengthy interview with Russell Patten, who leads the Brussels office of lobby consultancy giant Grayling Global. Patten argues that “lobbyists have nothing to hide” and that the negative image of lobbying is undeserved. On the question why Grayling has not joined the Commission’s lobby transparency register (launched 15 months ago), Patten explains that some of the firms' clients were sceptical about disclosure. He expects that Grayling will sign up “towards the end of the year”.
EUobserver last week reported about “ScienceMatters”, a campaign questioning the EU’s use of environmental risk assessments. This campaign is run by Grayling on behalf of chemicals companies Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL-IP. According to EUobserver, these chemical companies have invested €100,000 in the campaign, which is also actively supported by pesticide and biotech lobby groups. “ScienceMatters” is a continuation of the ReachForLife initiative, also run by Grayling, which aimed to overturn a ban on deca-BDE, a toxic flame retardant produced by Albemarle, Chemtura and ICL-IP. Has it not occurred to Mr. Patten that it is this kind of scandalous activities that gives lobbying its negative image?
In the interview Mr. Patten makes some fascinating remarks about the salary of lobbyists in Brussels. “If you are really good, you can earn up to 350 euro per hour”, says Patten, adding that, “for ex-Commissioners or top civil servants this can be up to 500 euro per hour”. Patten estimates that about half of the Brussels-based lobbyists previously worked in the EU institutions, and that this percentage used to be even higher in the past.
Patten’s remarks leave me with a burning question: who are these former Commissioners that are now earning up to 500 euro per hour as lobbyists? Former trade Commissioner Leon Brittan and former industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann went through the revolving door and became lobbyists after the fall of the Santer Commission in 1999, but both are now over 70 years old. A more recent example of a Commissioner entering the lobbyist profession is Pavel Telička. The former EU Commissioner for health and consumer affairs co-founded lobby firm BXL Consulting almost instantly after leaving the Commission in 2004. With BXL Consulting, Telička provides lobbying services to corporate clients such as Microsoft, energy giant RWE and OKD Doprava, a Czech coal producer.
Which other ex-Commissioners may Mr. Patten be referring to? The Commission’s lobby transparency register does not throw any light on this important question: not only is registration voluntary, the register has no names of lobbyists in it...
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