Green wave — Vaccine comms lessons — New pesticides regimePOLITICO EU - Cristina Gonzalez - 2/04/21
French lobbyists, by the numbers: Elisa and our colleague Cornelius Hirsch analyzed 5,300 events in the public agenda of France’s lower chamber since May 2017 and discovered — among other things — that of the 15 lobbyists most frequently invited to public hearings at the National Assembly, only three are women.
Lobbying the EU
VACCINE COMMS LESSONS: For the Brussels influence industry, AstraZeneca’s tarnished reputation is a cautionary tale — and a new client pitch.
The British-Swedish pharma giant should have been the world’s hero. They took a risk by teaming up with Oxford to produce a coronavirus jab, selling it without profit (unlike Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer) and even sharing IP with producers in India and elsewhere. But now many cast them as a villain. The diagnosis, Cambre Associates’ executive chairman Tom Parker told my colleague Sarah Wheaton: Not taking political risk seriously enough. For example, the idea that the pharma giant would get tied up in the politics of Brexit if they fulfilled U.K. orders more efficiently than the EU’s was entirely foreseeable.
Everything is political: When he started out in the Brussels lobbying scene decades ago, “the EU was largely a regulatory machine,” Parker recalled. “Now, it’s massively political. And I think a lot of organizations have not understood that.”
The problem is often rooted in corporate structures. There are separate departments devoted to regulatory issues and communications, Parker said, “but this whole political dimension is very often a big gap.”
BRUSSELS BLAME GAME: It is “too easy to blame Brussels” for the handling of the pandemic “without acknowledging that often the real decision-makers reside in the national capitals and not in the so-called Brussels bubble,” European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly told an Irish parliamentary committee this week.
Vaccine comms: FleishmanHillard’s health team in Brussels has some fascinating new research on vaccine communications in Europe. Which countries trust the European Union more than their national government for vaccine information? More here.
Meanwhile, how not to make friends: Austria threatened to block the European Commission from securing another 100 million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses unless Vienna gets a bigger slice of the delivery, according to diplomats from three EU countries. But the Council’s legal service said Tuesday this wasn’t possible, and the Commission has the authority to act on behalf of EU counties. On Thursday, most EU countries rebuffed Austria’s tantrum — more here.
EUROPEAN FORESTERS SEEK TO BE HEARD: A group of lobbies representing forest owners and managers launched a campaign this week to “make the voices of those who take care of forests heard.” The campaign wants to “raise the voice of forest owners who are feeling they are being forgotten at the EU level when discussing forest policy,” said Susanna Kallio, communications manager at the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF). More here for Sustainability Pro subscribers.
GREEN BEEF-UP IN BRUSSELS: German think tank Agora Energiewende is “really beefing up” its Brussels operation, Andreas Graf, formerly the organization’s sole operator in the European capital, told my colleague Karl Mathiesen. Recent hires include Michaela Holl, a Commission energy policy veteran, and Claire Stam, Euractiv’s former France and Germany editor.
Importing its model to Brussels: Agora, which is funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation, has been an influential voice in the German policy debate, with direct links to the government. But with the European Green Deal, Graf said, funders had offered to help them import their model to Brussels. The Agora office will be opened sometime after the summer.
And speaking of green …
LOBBYISTS PREPARE FOR GERMANY’S GREEN WAVE: Federal elections in Germany are about six months away, but lobbyists and industry representatives are already preparing for a likely green wave as the country’s Greens rise in the polls, making it likely that the party lands in a key position in the next governing coalition.
“It does have an interesting, and I would certainly say, maybe even a massive impact,” Hendrik Hagemann, managing partner of Rud Pedersen Germany, told EU Influence.
Some analysts, along with consultants like Hagemann, predict that the next governing coalition will be comprised of the Greens, along with the Christian Democrats. At the moment, the Greens are an opposition party and not part of the governing coalition in Germany.
Key players: “Right now, everybody wants to meet Green party leaders,” said Hagemann. At the top of the list is Green party co-leader Annalena Baerbock (a POLITICO 28 alum), who Hagemann thinks is the favorite to be designated as the party’s chancellor candidate. “The German industry leaders really have a lot of respect for her,” he said.
Among the others who Hagemann says industry clients are most eager to speak with are Danyal Bayaz, chair of the Economic Advisory Board of the Greens’ parliamentary group, and Michael Kellner, the party’s secretary-general and the “architect of the current success,” according to Hagemann. Many industry leaders are clamoring for a meeting with “the brains behind all this.”
In the spotlight: But securing meetings with Green lawmakers is not without its challenges, according to Hagemann. The first, he observes, is that the current faction in the federal parliament is rather small with just 67 seats out of 709. Additionally, they are not used to being “such a focus point of interest of global CEOs” who want to meet them “under a new headline that they want to talk to one of the future leading power forces in the heart of Europe.” The other challenge is that the party historically isn’t keen to be seen as too friendly with business leaders and lobbyists.
Impact on Brussels: A federal government coalition including a strong Green party and the Christian Democrats “will ultimately have a massive impact on Brussels and the EU,” Hagemann said. One reason is that Green politicians could take over key ministries outside their “usual” portfolio, such as environment and transport, like interior or finance. “They would have influence in areas of regulation with a massive impact also on Brussels regulations,” Hagemann said.
PHARMA LOBBY CONCERNS: Two NGOs this week wrote to the president of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Koen Lenaerts, expressing concern that Advocate General Giovanni Pitruzzella recently participated in an event on vaccine patents, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute Italy and a pharmaceutical industry lobby group, Farmindustria. Corporate Europe Observatory and The Good Lobby called Pitruzzella’s participation “inappropriate for a Member of the Court” because “the possibility exists” that he would be called upon to play a role in cases involving intellectual property rules for vaccines.
In a written response, Lenaerts conceded that Pitruzzella’s participation was not authorized by the court. Pitruzzella has since resigned from his position as a vice president of the Aspen Institute Italy “in order to avoid any future misunderstanding.”
COUNCIL TRANSPARENCY: Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has asked the Council to improve the transparency of its decision-making, following a strategic inquiry into the institution’s work during the pandemic.
Improvement over time: At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Council decided to derogate from its normal rules of procedure. O’Reilly said in her decision — published last week — that “for the initial four months of the COVID-19 crisis, remote ministerial meetings did not adhere to the same transparency standards as in-person Council meetings.” Nevertheless, she acknowledged that “since then, by web streaming certain ‘informal ministerial meetings’ and by publishing relevant documentation in relation to these meetings, the Council’s ministerial meetings during the COVID-19 crisis now de facto meet the applicable transparency standards and obligations.”
Make more public: O’Reilly is now asking the Council to take several steps to improve transparency, including publishing internal guidance on the organization of work during the pandemic.
Response: The Council’s general secretariat “took note” of the conclusion, “which includes some suggestions for improvement we are going to study,” according to a Council official.
DAWN OF A NEW EU PESTICIDES REGIME: My colleagues on the agriculture team have been tracking a new regulation that came into force over the weekend, which makes the process of approving pesticides in the EU more transparent. The rules require companies applying for approval to upload their supporting evidence via an online database, for all to see, and also invests the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with fresh powers to demand its own studies.
Logistical concerns: But there are concerns about this transition to the new world of transparency. CropLife Europe, the trade association lobbying on behalf of some of the biggest pesticide companies in the EU, sent the European Commission a letter earlier this month saying that although it remains committed to the new rules, there are technical problems with the new data submission system and that the lack of certainty and insufficient training provided by the EU for business is going to hamper innovation.
“We want to be compliant and not be accused of anything down the line,” Laurent Oger, CropLife’s director of regulatory affairs, told my colleagues Lili Bayer and Eddy Wax in an interview alongside CropLife Director General Géraldine Kutas. In a press release, EFSA’s Executive Director Bernhard Url is quoted as saying: “This is a big logistical challenge, and we have committed significant resources to ensuring that the transition to the new system is as smooth and inclusive as possible for our stakeholders.”
The European Policy Centre has added five new members to its Governing Board: Franziska Brantner, Susan Danger, Brigid Laffan, Alexander Stubb and Nathalie Tocci.
Daan van Apeldoorn is now a consultant focusing on the circular economy, energy and climate at public affairs agency #SustainablePublicAffairs.
FiscalNote, which provides software and political intelligence around legislative and regulatory risk, has named CropLife’s Alan Hardacre and Nouryon’s Marcel Halma to its board of advisors.
Wesley Lepla has been promoted to special counsel at Covington & Burling as of April 1.
Michael Schmid has left Eurojust and is now working at Austria’s permanent representation to the EU.
European consumer group BEUC has appointed Pauline Constant as its new head of communications.
Former U.K. MEP and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage has joined the Dutch Green Business Group — a carbon offsets seller — as spokesperson and adviser, the Daily Mail reported.
EuroCommerce Director General Christian Verschueren will be standing down from his post later this year after a successor has been appointed, and the board will be starting the process of finding a replacement.
Mark Jansen is leaving Google, where he’s currently the director of communications for Northern Europe, to join Stripe as its global policy communications lead.
The Irish government has appointed Andrew Murphy, aviation director at the Brussels-based Transport & Environment NGO, as a member of Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council.
After some four years, Nikos Chrysoloras‘ term as Brussels bureau chief for Bloomberg has come to an end. He said he “will soon join our equity markets crew.”
Eleni Varvitsioti joins the FT, covering stories from Greece and Cyprus.
The German Marshall Fund announced its 2021 class of ReThink.CEE Fellows, comprised of young policy experts, analysts and activists from Central and Eastern Europe.
DigitalEurope has a new member in global IT company Atos.
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