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Lora Verheecke: 70% of Brussels lobbyists are corporative

The MEPs who approved CETA made the big business very happy

Кристиела Симеонова

28. Февруари 2017 , брой: 41   205   0
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Lora Verheecke is 32 years old. She is from France. Lora has a postgraduate diploma in Environmental governance in the University of Manchester. She is a trade campaigner and researcher in Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). It is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.

- Despite the huge opposition of the European citizens, the European Parliament approved CETA. What have the MEPs shown to their voters by this vote?
- The MEPs who voted for CETA made big business lobbies very happy. Let me point out some of them: EFPIA - European Pharmaceutical lobby; FoodDrinkEurope - the European lobby for food multinationals; Cefic - European chemicals lobby; BusinessEurope - European big business lobby.
- One of the biggest problems of the EU is the democratic deficit. The MEPs who voted for CETA have made it deeper.
- From the beginning the public didn't know what has been negotiated. The mandate of the negotiations was not public. All the time during the negotiations there was a very little information on the agreement so there was a very little way for the public concerns to be voiced. There was no public debate about it and the citizens didn't know what was going on. The only time when there has been a public debate was the moment when it came to the European Parliament but by that time there were no changes possible because the MEPs could only say yes, no or abstain. That's a huge democratic deficit because CETA is really much more than trade, it will have an impact on the environment, on consumer protection, on public health.
The people in the European Commission were given the mandate to negotiate but they are not accountable to anyone. Nobody knew what they were talking about because the mandate was not public. So at the level of the Commission the trade negotiators on CETA are the less democratic people because they were negotiating and have had lots of meeting with big business lobbies. We didn't even know what they were talking about.
- Mrs Malmström has said that she hasn't been elected by the European citizens that's why there is no need to take into consideration their opinion.
- The people in the Commission are not elected, it's true. They don't feel the need to listen to public opinion and they don't feel the pressure from the people. Most of the time they listen to the Council.
- We know that only a few MEPs have seen the negotiated documents.
- That's right. A very little committees had voice. The Employment committee voted against CETA because of its impact on jobs loses. There was a request from some of the MEPs, but it wasn't approved by the European Parliament. They wanted to know if the ISDS mechanism is legal. Up until now it's only the European court of justice that's get interpret the European law. Its judges can say whether something is legal or not in Europe. With ISDS we actually have private arbitrators that can now interpret the European law without even asking the European court of justice.
- Why was the vote "yes"?
- Because most of the MEPs haven't read the whole text of CETA and they don’t listen to the voters' voices. In the countries that has been a lot of public debates like Austria, Greece, France, their MEPs have listened to the public pressure. They voted abstained or against. For example all the socialist MEPs from France voted against. And this is because in France we are in an election campaign and there have been a lot of discussions on these trade deals.
In the European Parliament there was a lot of pressure from lobbies. Before the CETA vote there were many events inside the European Parliament. They were trying to influence the debate. BussinessEurope and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical companies were most active.
- What's the percentage of corporate lobbyists in the European institutions in comparison with the public interest lobbyists? Who are the biggest spenders on lobbying?
- We estimate that there are between 20 000 and 30 000 lobbyists in Brussels. About 70% of lobbyists are corporate lobbyists, whilst 10% are public interest lobbyists. Those are estimates. Registration as a lobbyist is not compulsory in Brussels. You can find the top ten biggest EU lobby spenders here: https://lobbyfacts.eu/charts-graphs
- Let's come back to CETA. Its supporters claim that it will boost the European economy. Is it true?
- A study by the Tufts University found out that CETA will lead to job losses. By 2023, about 230 thousand jobs will be lost in CETA countries, 200 thousand of them in the EU, and 80 thousand more in the rest of the world CETA will lead to net losses in terms of GDP. As investment and foreign demand remain sluggish, aggregate demand shortfalls nurtured by higher unemployment will also hurt productivity and cause cumulative welfare losses amounting to 0.96% and 0.49% of national income in Canada and the EU, respectively. While the United Kingdom (-0.23%) and Germany (-0.37%) may be least affected, France (-0.65%) and Italy (-0.78%) will lose more than other EU countries (-0.53%). More info about the sudy may be found here: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/policy_research/ceta_simulations.html.
- CETA will have a negative impact on the Canadians too.
- It's gonna have an impact in Canada on pharmaceutical prices because Canada is trying to reduce the price of medicine but if they reduce it too much the pharmaceutical companies can sue Canada. There is a US company that sued Canada because Ottawa wanted to withdraw a medicine from the market. Canada lost - that's was the result. There are a lot of dangers in CETA for the both sides of the agreement, especially for the ordinary people.
- The investment clauses are the most dangerous.
- The biggest danger of CETA is its investment chapter. You may know the case of Rosia Montana in Romania. The company "Gabriel recourses" is now suing the Romanian state for arbitration which means that on international level it is asking for money from the state. The problem is that the Romanian government has to pay to law firm to protect himself and the law firm charge is up to $800 in hour. We see how mining companies from Canada are suing governments when they change legislation because those changes affect their profits, their expected profits. That is the big threat for Europe. That's justice above national justice. That's very powerful instrument. It's only the investor that can sue, not the state. What is more is that all the people that are deciding for the case come from private law firms. So their decisions have an impact on their jobs on the next day. They know that if they are on the investor’s side they will have more cases and more money in the future. Those are arbitrators that are not independent. It's a parallel system. That is crazy!
- So the biggest winner of CETA is...
- The Canadian mining corporations but also all the US multinationals that have subsidiaries in Canada.
- What do you expect - bigger mobilization of the ordinary Europeans, opposition of some of the EU countries during the ratification process? May CETA be halted?
- In France, Austria, Greece, Ireland and Italy, more than 50% of MEPs voted against CETA. This gives you an indication of the EU countries which could halt CETA. But this also depends on national politics and on the date of ratification in those parliaments.
- You are from France. What about the results of the presidential elections?
- That's very difficult to say. It's gonna depend on the Left - whether they come together or not. If they are still divided, Macron will face against Le Pen on the second round. The polls say Le Pen would only be 45. There have been lots of surprises in this campaign so it's very hard to predict. 

 

 

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