On 23 June 2008 the European Commission launched the first ever EU lobbying transparency register. But will this voluntary mechanism end the secrecy surrounding much of lobbying in Brussels? An estimated 15,000+ lobbyists try to influence EU decision-making, most of them representing big business. The Brussels Sunshine blog, written by members of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) team, tracks who registers and who doesn’t, what is disclosed and what isn’t.
In previous posts we highlighted examples of former MEPs who have gone through the revolving door to become corporate lobbyists. Pat Cox, an MEP for fifteen years (1989 – 2004) and president of the European Parliament for two years (2002 -2004), is another astonishing example.
After stepping down as an MEP he became a lobbying consultant for several bodies, including public affairs giant APCO, the corporations Microsoft, Pfizer and Michelin as well as corporate front groups and thinks tanks like Friends of Europe.
He is also the director of two smaller lobby firms: Strategic Consulting firm CAPA Ltd and European Integration Solutions. Neither of these firms have joined the Commission’s register. Nor do they apply even the most basic standards of transparency:
– Neither of them has a website
– Searching online, there is an EIS address in Brussels as well as a Cyprus phone number. The address seems to be for a private apartment.
Pat Cox has also been hired by Consumers Commissioner Meglena Kuneva as a Special Adviser. The documents published on the Commission’s web page of Special Advisers, however, fail to demonstrate an absence of conflicts of interest as demanded by the Rules on Special Advisers.
There are legitimate concerns that there could be a potential conflict of interest given that Mr Cox works directly (Microsoft, Pfizer and Michelin) and indirectly (through APCO and EIS) for large corporations with significant interests in EU consumer policies.
Corporate Europe Observatory last week wrote to Commissioner Kuneva and asked her to clarify the situation.