Lobby groups given special access to national governments in Brussels

Industry groups are influencing decision-making via national ministers and officials to ensure that EU laws suit them, according to a new report.

Reports of industry lobbying in Brussels are widespread. But a new study by industry watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) has shed a light on how these groups operate and the extent to which they can undermine environmental and health protections.

The study finds that corporate interests are dominant in lobbying member states. It points to how some of the most powerful lobby groups in Brussels may be exploiting the lack of transparency and obscure processes of decision-making at the national level.

Major groups involved in the study include car manufacturer Volkswagen, the Polish coal industry, the City of London, telecommunications giant Telefónica and high-spending EU trade associations such as BusinessEurope and CEFIC (the European Chemicals Industry Council).

According to CEO, “Member states play a hugely important role in EU decision-making, but too often they act as middlemen for corporate interests.“

Whether it is on climate change, finance, chemicals, data privacy, or many other issues, when corporate interests win, the public interest loses out,” the group said.


National governments are closely involved in both the drafting and implementation of EU laws. But many of the ways in which member states feed into EU decision-making are not well-known and transparency issues generally arise when the ball is in the court of member states.

For example, elite corporate lobbies target the European Council of member state leaders with access that NGOs and trade unions cannot match. Regular meetings of the European Round Table of Industrialists bring together 50 bosses of major European multinational companies with the leaders of France, Germany, and the European Commission president, according to CEO.

Another example highlighted in the report is that of consultancy firms providing specific services such as Fleishman-Hillard’s annual gas forum for member state officials. The event is organised for the trade association GasNaturally, a lobby forum for major gas companies such as Shell, Total, and RWE.

Last year, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Really opened an inquiry to assess whether country representatives allow sufficient public scrutiny of EU law proposals.

Recently, META has reported on a major case of corporate lobbying targeting member states. This involved the chemical industry spending millions to stop people finding out about the potential carcinogenic properties of titanium dioxide, a popular whitening chemical.