Another afternoon, another fascinating interview with a participant at the congress. We spoke to Olivier Hoedeman of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), an organisation with which EPSU has collaborated on various issues of the past years.
Olivier started off by explaining the areas of work where CEO has worked with EPSU, such as the corporate influence on the direction of the TTIP negotiations and the role of the Troika in successive water privatisations around Europe. The core aim of CEO is to expose backroom-industry lobbying in the EU and the close ties between European institutions and the corporate world. CEO campaigns for tighter rules against secretive lobbying and for greater transparency in EU decision making.
If you’re in any doubt about the pervasiveness of corporate influence in the EU, you need look no further than the push for water privatisation and deregulation in countries where the Troika has imposed austerity measures. This cosy relationship between big business and the EU is institutionalised in the form of the Expert Advisory Groups, which are packed full of corporate representatives, at the expense of other voices like trade unions.
There is a massive democratic deficit in the EU. The Parliament, the only directly-elected institution, can’t force the Commission to put its cards on the table on issues like privatisation or trade deals. Rather, everything is wrapped up in corporate doublespeak that allows them to hide their real interest in the shadows.
The best example of these is the TTIP negotiations. The documents are still secret and there is almost no opportunity for trade unions to influence the negotiating process. This makes it easy for the Commission to pull the wool over people’s eyes and tell European society not to worry, whilst simultaneously negotiating away citizens’ and governments’ rights, in secret.
CEO investigated the role of the corporate lobby in the TTIP negotiations. They uncovered close links between DG Trade and industry lobbies. DG Trade have held 135 advisory meetings as part of the TTIP negotiation process, 95% of these were with industry representatives. Their implacable defence of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) exemplifies this. While corporate Europe gets priority access to the EU negotiating team, trade unions and civil society are side-lined. Unions are key in fighting for a transparent Europe, they are the only organisations that have the necessary numbers and the mobilising power.