German lobbying culture threatens climate-protection progress during EU presidency – NGOs
Clean Energy Wire
A group of non-governmental organisations warns in a report that corporate interests could push for and achieve climate-damaging EU legislation during the country’s upcoming EU Council presidency. Lobbycontrol and the Corporate Europe Observatory, which coordinated contributions from several other NGOs, say that German government ministers are already too close to lobbyists in the gas and auto industries, and that their influence will only increase during the six-month presidency starting on July 1.
Ministers have previously “diluted, blocked or changed laws in the interest of German companies" through the Council, the report says. Restrictions on methane emissions, for example, have been largely ignored due to the success of gas industry lobbying firms, and there is a real risk this will continue through the presidency, Lobbycontrol warns. Automakers have also had success lobbying for looser limits on CO2 emissions, it says, with economy minister Peter Altmaier writing to the EU in January calling for new limits to be ruled out before 2030. "How will this debate develop under the German EU Council presidency," the authors ask.
The NGOs argue that a lack of transparency in EU law-making means that civil society is effectively shut out of the process, whereas this favours behind-closed-doors lobbying. To counter this “democratic deficit”, the report calls for an end to the championing of big business over public interest and urgent transparency reforms to open up government decision-making on EU matters.
Critics say that as a heavily export-dependent economy, the German government is in thrall to powerful industries such as the auto and energy sectors. They add that Germany’s influence in EU matters is also too great. The non-public proceedings of the EU Council, the highest level of member state governments, compound these fears. But governments argue that lobbying is regulated and that they must retain some secrecy to ensure that deals can be made and legislation agreed. The German government has named climate action as one of its priorities during its EU presidency.