Rankings reveal unreliable data EU lobby register

September 30th, 2014
by Vicky Cann

Many of the rankings presented elsewhere on this website reveal that there are ongoing problems with the reliability of the data in the EU’s transparency register, a problem that has already been highlighted by transparency NGOs on numerous occasions. The problem is caused by unclear reporting requirements, technical problems and the very limited monitoring of the data by the secretariat of the transparency register, which means that mistakes are not corrected.

In the ranking of the biggest spenders on lobbying among companies, there were three companies in the top 10 whose lobbying is nowhere near that size. This is clearly the case for Cemafroid, a small French consultancy, which reports spending over €5 million on lobbying. This figure is most likely the company's whole annual turnover. Similarly, Astramatic is a small Barcelona-based company specialising in water treatment, which reports spending over €3 million on EU lobbying per year. Like Cemafroid, Astramatic has no presence in Brussels and does not hold any lobbyist passes at the European Parliament.

The same goes for BPCE, a French co-operative savings bank. While BPCE is much larger than Cemafroid and Astramatic and is likely to carry out EU lobbying activities, the €7,500,000 annual lobby expenditure the company reports in the register is a mistake. BPCE is a member of several banking federations, but does not appear to be very active in Brussels. A comprehensive investigation into financial industry lobbying published in April 2014 did not find any fingerprints of BPCE’s lobbying and the banking group does not feature in a recent list of lobby entities that had meetings with the European Commission. When we contacted BPCE for a comment on their entry in the transparency register, they responded that “this is a mistake of course!”.

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has highlighted Cemafroid’s entry in the register as an example of unreliable data several times but the transparency register secretariat appears not have taken action to correct this problem.

The top 10 lobby consultancies by turnover is also full of firms that are not actually lobby consultancies, and even if they are, they are not among the largest. The following five firms appear as top 10 spenders (reporting lobby expenses between €4.25 and €10 million per year), but only because they have made mistakes in their registrations (wrongly registering as a lobby consultancy instead of as a company, and wrongly declaring high EU lobby expenditure). These five firms do not have a single accredited lobbyist between them with a Parliament access pass).

  • CDC Climat (a French company investing in greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects)
  • Taxand (a Luxembourg-based tax advisory company)
  • Med Ingegneria s.r.l. (an Italy-based engineering firm)
  • Risk Dynamics (advises financial sector companies on risk management, but has no clients for which it does lobbying)
  • Social Finance Ltd (“Social Finance provides a range of financial advisory services to help build the social investment market”)

These firms do not appear to do any significant lobbying activities, which means that 50 per cent of the top 10 list of lobby consultancies is flawed.

Lobby consultancies with the biggest lobbying turnover according to transparency register (misleading entries highlighted in bold)

  Organisation Country Lobbying turnover
1 Fleishman-Hillard Belgium €11,514,273
2 CDC Climat France >=€10mn
3 Taxand Luxembourg >=€10mn
4 Burson-Marsteller Belgium €8,965,000
5 Med Ingegneria s.r.l. Italy €8,25mn - €8,5mn
6 Hill & Knowlton International Belgium €8,433,819
7 APCO Worldwide United States €7,75mn - €8mn
8 FTI Consulting Belgium €6mn - €6,25mn
9 Risk Dynamics Belgium €5,75mn - €6mn
10 Social Finance Ltd United Kingdom €5mn - €5,25mn

Even more stunning is the NGO category for the number of accredited lobbyists, where one organisation (the Hungary-based European Parents’ Association) reports having 7,000,000 lobbyists! The organisation has only one lobbyist access pass at the European Parliament and the figure of 7,000,000 is most likely an estimate of the number of supporters, not of professional lobbyists working to influence EU decision-making. Similarly, Euroclio (the European Association of History Educators) reports having 500 lobbyists, but only holds two lobbyist access passes at the European Parliament. The Italian National Association of Tax Consultants, Associazione Nazionale Consulenti Tributari, declares lobby expenditure of €50,000, but also declares that it employs a lobbying army of 5,000 staff.

The transparency register secretariat clearly should have contacted these organisations and asked them to correct the information. When the data in the register is not monitored and few efforts are made to verify its quality, the transparency register fails at its purpose of creating visibility around EU lobbying. Flawed data can lead to misinterpretation, for instance around the balance between those representing big business and those representing other interests. A much more active effort to safeguard the quality of data in the register is urgently needed.

Top NGOs declaring the most (non-accredited) lobbyists

  Organisation Country Declared lobbyists EP access passes
1 European Parents’ Association Hungary 7,000,000 1
2 Euroclio, the European Association of History Educators Netherlands 500 2
3 Diplomatic Mission Peace and Prosperity Albania 320 2
4 Initiatives et Changement France 297 2
5 ECCO2 Global Partners United States 160 1
6 Sicurezza e Cooperazione Diplomatica Internazionale Italy 150 1
7 Young European Federalists / Jeunes Européens Fédéralistes Belgium 70 2
8 Consejo Consultivo Regional de Flota de Larga Distancia en Aguas no Comunitarias Spain 65 1
9 European Climate Foundation Netherlands 50 3
10 Client Earth United Kingdom 40 4

Disclaimer: please note that the figures in this article were correct on 26 September 2014 but are very likely to change. Please see our detailed disclaimer.

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