EU needs ‘Greenpeace of finance’, says French MEP

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The EU needs an NGO active on financial services issues to counteract the huge power of the banking sector lobby, French Green MEP Pascal Canfin told EurActiv France in an interview, calling for the establishment of a 'Greenpeace of finance'.

Canfin, who launched the call together with colleagues on the European Parliament's committees on economic and monetary affairs and dealing with the crisis, said there is an "asymmetry" between powerful finance industry lobbies on one hand and weak civil society on the other.

"No NGO in Europe is capable of producing specific expertise like Greenpeace can on nuclear or Amnesty International can on human rights. We need a Greenpeace of finance," Canfin said.

If it is to prove effective, such an NGO will need a large enough membership with sufficient expertise and the capacity to communicate, Canfin said, stressing the need to fill a gap created by "the absence of political action at the highest level and the populist response" of attacking bankers.

Asked whether the size of the banking industry lobby would prove too daunting an opponent, the MEP responded by saying "the fact that an industry is powerful should […] allow us to mobilise the means with which to counteract it".

Canfin stressed the importance of recruiting former traders and retired bankers to the cause with the ability to communicate technical issues to the public at large, pointing to the fact that "the technical nature of nuclear issues doesn't prevent Greenpeace from being able to communicate."

"What has been done for other sectors must be done for finance. Otherwise we'll have real problems ensuring a democratic debate," he said.

"Historically the banking sector isn't a traditional action area for NGOs. The newness of the topic means that they do not spend very much money developing expertise in the area," Canfin added.

He said "ten or 15" actors had already been identified to help set up the new group, citing the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and smaller NGOs like ALTER-EU, Attac and the New Economic Foundation as potential collaborators.

To read the interview in full (in French), please click here.

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