Monday, September 27, 2010

Lobbyist/Think tanker? EU stooge?

An interesting contretemps is developing in Brussels. The Commission is creating a register of lobbyists and under the leadership of Siim Kallas it has called for Think Tanks to register as well.
The registration would mean that the think tanks scources of funding would become transparent.

However Giles Merrit, chief panjandrum of the "Friends of Europe" is incandescent,

“None of the leading think-tanks has a problem with making public the details of their financial resources, as they in any case supply them to the Commission every year; ours will also shortly be available on our website. But they have major reservations about volunteering to classify themselves as lobbyists when they so clearly are not. Why will the Commission not consider creating a separate list for us?”.
Well, are they lobbyists?
According to Public Affairs News,

The number of think-tanks in Brussels has mushroomed over the past decade, with one study estimating the number at 1,200. Many have faced criticism from NGOs and transparency campaigners for being ‘corporate front groups’.
What is more already in the registration process there is differentiation between strict lobbyists and think tanks. One classic case in point was 'The Centre' run by Brussels old hand Paul Adamson, it rather laughing described it self as a 'Think do Tank'. And Kallas has writen to Merrit to say,

“It would surprise me somewhat if you would equally object to the qualification of Friends of Europe as an ‘interest representative’, considering the claim on your own website that paid membership of ‘Friends of Europe’ offers ‘maximum visibility’ and ‘a genuine opportunity to have a stake in the EU’s future direction’. Such indirect representation must be captured for the register to be taken seriously.”
The thing is that many think tanks are front groups all right. Mostly front Groups for the EU institutions and receive funding from the EU.

So for example we can see that Bruegel which calls itself
a European think tank working in the field of international economics
And is funded in the main by Governments but also lists (page 23)

European Investment Bank
European Parliament’s Economic and Scientific Policy Department
European Commission - DGs ECFIN and RELEX

There again we could look at the Centre for European Policy Studies which admits to reciving over 2 million Euro from the institutions.

Then try the European Institute of Public Administration, which describes itself as,

Europe's leading centre of excellence on European integration and the new
challenges for public management
is entirely funded by the EU. Indeed we could look at old Mr Ferritts own Friends of Europe.

The European Commission contributed the largest sum of money through a mixture
of structural support and project support

There are dozens more. So whilst I agree with The Corporate Observatory in its campaign, one thing positicve that will also come out ofit is to discover quite how the majority of Brussels so called independent think tanks are essentially propaganda mouth pieces for the EU institutions.

This is all relevant because next week they will all be sitting round a table discussing the issue.
Thank you Mr Kallas.

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