EXCLUSIVE / European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did not meet a single green NGO in 2015, but found time for one-on-one meetings with 18 business and industry organisations.
Juncker’s website shows 29 meetings from 22 January to 10 December 2015. The apparent bias will be seized on by those who accuse the Commission of not caring about the environment, and prioritising business interests.
Jeremy Wates is Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which is Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations. It is also a member of the Green 10, a grouping of the most influential Brussels environment NGOs.
He said, “It’s a sad fact that President Juncker has shown little interest in the environment. To our knowledge, in the 14 months since he has taken office , he has not had a single meeting with any environmental organisation.”
“It’s not double figures but there have been several requests from EEB and Green 10 and we have never had a positive response to any of them. It does have a chilling effect,” said Wates, “We hope that this will change.”
2015 was a big year for green issues in the EU. As well as the landmark UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, there was huge controversy over the withdrawal of the Circular Economy package of waste and recycling laws, and the ‘fitness check’ on the Birds and Habitats Directive.
The Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) scrutinises EU legislation as part of the bloc’s drive to cut red tape on businesses.
An EU consultation on the Birds and Habitats Directive drew the most responses ever received – over half a million – all calling for the laws not to be weakened as part of the ‘better regulation’ strategy.
The European Commission said, “What matters more than looking at individual meetings is the broader picture which makes absolutely clear the importance of environmental issues for the Juncker Commission.”
The executive said that environmental and sustainable issues were integrated into the its ten political priorities, and that Juncker’s cabinet had met green NGOs.
Wates said, “The Commission is a team, but it is a team with a boss.” Discussing the freezing out, he said the EEB had met with Juncker’s predecessor José Manuel Barroso, and his predecessors.
Daniel Freund, of Transparency International, which in June said 75% of all Commission meetings were with corporate lobbyists, added, “Big companies get more one-on-one meetings with Commissioners.
“There is no question of course that lobbyists can wield more influence when they have the undivided attention of a Commissioner.”
A significant share of NGO meetings took place in roundtable debates with ten or more campaigners getting a joint meeting with a Commissioner, said Freund.
The EEB has published a document outlining how the European Commission’s political priorities could be ‘greened’ in a bid to bring Juncker to the table.
Since January 2015, Juncker has had one-on-one meetings with;
- German industry, banking and newspaper publishers‘ associations, the Bundesverband der Deutschemark Industrie, Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken and Raiffesenbanken, and Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger;
- Greek federation of enterprises;
- British Bankers’ Association;
- Luxembourg’s Business Federation;
- Deutsche Börse, and Deutsche Bank;
- French energy firm Engie;
- French business federation, the Mouvement des Enterprises de France;
- Digital firm Atos;
- European Publishers Council;
- Recently disgraced Michel Platini of the Union of European Football Associations;
- European Construction Industry Federation.
Juncker also met with three trade unions, and with Bill Gates, for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kofi Annan, for the Kofi Annan Foundation, and George Soros, for the Open Society European Policy Institute.
In 2015, Juncker’s cabinet met with the following NGOs to discuss climate, energy or environmental issues; E3G, Avaaz, Greenpeace, Oxfam, and the European Climate Foundation.
Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of better regulation and overseeing sustainable development, met with the Green 10 twice, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the EEB.
Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete met personally with 15 environmental NGOs, many on several occasions.
He met Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF and Climate Action Network Europe E3G, and Nature Code. He also met Transport and Environment, Birdlife Europe, the EEB, CEE Bankwatch Network, Friends of the Earth Europe, Health and Environment Alliance, European Federation of Clean Air and Environmental Protection Associations, and the European Climate Foundation.
Over the same period Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella met with Greenpeace, WWF, Seas at Risk, The Nature Conservancy in Europe, Birdlife Europe, ClientEarth, Oceana, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Vella met some of the nine NGOs listed on the official website multiple times.
Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi?, in charge of the EU’s Energy Union strategy, met with the Green 10 twice. He also met Greenpeace separately.
The Green 10 are Birdlife Europe, CEE Bankwatch Network, Climate Action Network Europe, the EEB, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Health and Environment Alliance, Naturefriends International, Transport and Environment and WWF.