Talking Europe speaks to a leading voice on the democratisation of the European Union. Alberto Alemanno is a professor of EU law and a founding member of The Good Lobby, an organisation that aims to boost civil society’s ability to carry out advocacy, and to make corporate political influence more accountable. We discuss the implications of the Qatargate scandal that has rocked the European Parliament over the last few weeks. Alemanno also gives us a heads-up on the incoming Swedish presidency of the EU, as well as some of the European trends to look out for in 2023.
Asked about the alleged bribery scandal known as Qatargate, Alemanno says: “On paper the EU has one of the best possible systems for integrity and ethical behaviour of its own elected and non-elected officials. But unless we make the system no longer self-policing, having colleagues judging each other, we’re not going to be able to make those rules gain some teeth.”
On the balance of power between corporate lobbyists and other groups seeking access to EU institutions, Alemanno affirms: “European Union institutions should be accessible. But who is actually knocking at the door and getting the attention of political leaders? 75 percent of meetings in Brussels take place with the usual suspects: corporations. Organisations that have a lot of political clout. The remaining 25 percent take place with trade unions, NGOs, smaller groups. There’s a David-and-Goliath scenario that organisations such as mine try to tackle, by saying it’s time to equalise access to power.”
Alemanno then turns to the Swedish presidency of the EU and what Europeans can expect. “The Swedish government will certainly define its priorities,” he says, “and from what we have heard so far, possibly, due to the support that the [Eurosceptic] Sweden Democrats are giving to the Swedish government, there won’t be much more political appetite to tackle issues like migration policy. And in terms of the government’s stance on issues like the Ukraine war and the economic perspectives this year, the overall take by Sweden will be quite moderate, possibly conservative, and this is not necessarily the best approach given the major challenges that the European Union is facing today.”
Produced by Sophie Samaille, Isabelle Romero and Perrine Desplats