MEPs call for more transparency in German politics as EU presidency kicks off

A new report claims that the German government’s “love affair” with gas and “unconditional support” for its automobile sector are “clear cut examples” of how its EU presidency risks stymying effective climate action by the EU.
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By Martin Banks

02 Jul 2020

The report by two leading Brussels-based NGOs, entitled “Tainted love: corporate lobbying and the upcoming German EU Presidency,” says the German government is “too close” to its domestic industry interests on a raft of issues.

Angela Merkel’s administration should, says the report, “put the brakes on privileged access” and “policy favours” for the likes of powerful car and gas lobby groups.

Daniel Freund, a German Greens MEP, told this site that the study “shows that as soon as Germany finally gets a lobby register, it must also apply to the Permanent Representation and all German representatives in the Council.”

“The otherwise strong Brussels lobbying rules have their greatest gaps with the governments of the Member States, for whom only national rules apply and therefore, in case of doubt, no rules at all.”

"It is not without reason that the German government is a central contact point for companies when it comes to asserting political interests at European level. The Amthor case clearly shows that we need more transparency in German politics - in Berlin and in Brussels” Daniel Freund MEP

“It is not without reason that the German government is a central contact point for companies when it comes to asserting political interests at European level. The Amthor case clearly shows that we need more transparency in German politics - in Berlin and in Brussels.”

His reference to the “Amthor case” is about Philipp Amthor, a rising star in Merkel's party who recently came under fire for lobbying for a US start-up. The case sparked a debate about lobbying in Germany.

The “Tainted love” report coincides with the start of Germany’s six-month presidency of the EU, which it took over from Croatia on Wednesday.

Published by Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl, the report says the German so-called ‘Energiewende’ (energy system transformation) is in a “serious crisis” and is currently being “hijacked” by the powerful gas industry lobby.

The report’s authors say, “Via various detailed case studies [by various NGOs] the new report shows that on many EU issues – vehicle emission limits, new gas support and infrastructure, sustainable finance, tax policy, ePrivacy, chemicals regulation, fishing quotas - the German government is too close to its domestic industry interests.”

This leads to delays, loopholes, or even the blocking of new EU rules, and seriously undermines public interest.

“It is true that Germany has not been part of the climate progressive coalition at European level and has a questionable track record on climate action. But now Germany can make up for that and make its presidency a success by ensuring the EU agrees on the highest possible 2030 climate target by the end of this year” Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe

The report also coincided with Germany presenting its climate and environmental policy goals.

The report adds, “Caution is needed because while the German government often prides itself on its record in introducing progressive environmental policies, the reality exposed in these studies shows that the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy under Minister Peter Altmaier has a decisive and not so climate-friendly say while the Ministry for Environment is in a much weaker position.”

Further comment on the report came from Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, who told this website, “It is true that Germany has not been part of the climate progressive coalition at European level and has a questionable track record on climate action. But now Germany can make up for that and make its presidency a success by ensuring the EU agrees on the highest possible 2030 climate target by the end of this year.”

He added, “It will also have to ensure not one cent of the EU budget and recovery measures goes to fossil fuels, fossil gas included.”

German MEP Martin Schirdewan, GUE/NGL co-leader, also told The Parliament Magazine, “The study has clear evidence of all the major shortcomings though, sadly, it comes as no surprise at all. From 1 July, Germany will no longer be able to hide behind the European Council.”

“In taking over the EU presidency, the German government must explain why industries - and not civil society - have their ear, or why Germany is focusing on maintaining its export surplus despite its destabilising effects on the European and world economy.”

“We need a Europe for the people and the planet, not for the profit. Germany now has the chance to take a decisive step in the right direction.”

“From 1 July, Germany will no longer be able to hide behind the European Council. In taking over the EU presidency, the German government must explain why industries - and not civil society - have their ear, or why Germany is focusing on maintaining its export surplus despite its destabilising effects on the European and world economy” Martin Schirdewan, GUE/NGL co-leader

Also speaking to this website, Colin Roche, programme coordinator for climate justice and energy with Friends of the Earth Europe, said, “With critical legislation and hundreds of billions of euros up for discussion in the coming months it's vital that the German presidency shapes a recovery for Europe's citizens, not one hijacked by corporate interests.”

“Europe's actions in the coming months will have consequences for decades. They need to ensure that we have a real green recovery, not more greenwash.”

Vicky Cann, researcher and campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, said, “These times are simply too critical for a business-as-usual approach; it’s vital that the German Government ensures that its EU presidency focuses on the public interest rather than its national industrial interests.”

“The Government must put the brakes on the privileged access and policy favours for the car, gas, and other industries whose interests run counter to tough action on climate change, a robust European Green Deal and a Corona recovery package based on social and environmental justice.”

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