Thursday 25 March 2010

Follow-up on the lobbying story (UPDATED)

Update (30 March 2010): According to CEO, the European Commission has dismissed the complaint from EPACA against the transparency organisation because it was ill-founded concluded that the complaint was not admissible (see comments from Erik).

The lobbying story reported by EUobserver on Tuesday that I have covered yesterday has been continued.

It has been continued both in the comments to my blog post as well as on the website of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) where the full email exchange between David and Burson-Marsteller has been published.

In the comments, David, the person that EPACA has been complaining about, told his side of the story and Leigh, the EUoberserver journalist who wrote the story, explained why he hadn't talked to him before publishing the article. So what we are now missing are public reactions from EPACA or Burson-Marsteller and the European Commission.

Now it will be interesting to watch what will be the result of this story...


Erik Wesselius said...

Julien, the Commission dismissed EPACA's complaint yesterday. In a press release issued today, CEO welcomed this decision. The Commission's dismissal of the complaint makes the statement that EPACA posted on their website yesterday (before the dismissal of the complaint) look rather silly. From the start it was clear that the complaint was ill-founded and unjustified and that it was a badly disguised attempt to undermine the reputation of CEO. This silly action came at a time when there is a solid momentum in the EP-EC interinstitutional working group on a joint lobbying register for moving towards stricter transparency requirements.

On a more general note, EPACA's clumsiness in handling this case makes me wonder about the quality of the advice that these lobby firms are providing to their clients...

Julien said...

Hi Erik, I've already updated the post with a link to your statement.

But I still find this a very strange affair. Did you step on their toes despite the fact of demanding more transparency?

Erik Wesselius said...

Julien, thanks for linking to our statement. But I think your short text is not fully correct. The Commission only concluded that the complaint was not admissible but it didn't use the word ill-founded (that is our assessment of the complaint).

The Commission didn't reject EPACA's complaint about the contact between our employee and the CEO of Burson Marsteller Brussels on substance but because the EC's Code of Conduct for Interest Representatives only covers contacts between lobbyists and the EU institutions.

On the other element of the complaint the Commission judged that there is no
reason to assume "the declaration made by CEO in the registration could be false".

I agree that it is a strange affair. But one thing is sure: if we stepped on EPACA's toes, it is not despite the fact of demanding more transparency, as you suggest, but because of doing so!

We have asked the Secretariat General to give us access to the full details of the original EPACA complaint. Strangely enough we only know the complaint indirectly, through media reports and via the summary in the email announcing the Commission's decision. It's obvious that EPACA didn't play fair and therefore we want to know the precise nature of their complaint and we want to see the 'evidence' that they brought forward.

Julien Frisch said...

Thanks for the clarification. I have corrected it.