Captured states: When EU governments are a channel for corporate interests

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The member states of the European Union are intimately involved in, and responsible for, the EU’s laws and policies. This new  report by the Corporate Europe Observatory focuses on the democratic deficit that sees too many member states, on too many issues, become captured states, allowing corporate interests to malignly influence the decisions they take on EU matters. Instead of acting in the public interest of their citizens and those in the wider EU, they often operate as channels of corporate influence. Many of the ways in which member states feed into EU decision-making are not well-known and are neither transparent nor commonly studied. This report breaks new ground by providing an overview of how member states act as middlemen for corporate interests with a focus on several European institutions.

With the Corporate Europe Observatory report, we hope to alert civil society and decision-makers to the threat that corporate lobbies, influencing member states, have on EU decision-making, and our final recommendations set out some initial steps to start to counter this corporate influence. They include:

  1. Member state governments must adopt national rules and cultures which reduce the risk of corporate influence on EU decision-making, including an end to privileged access for corporate lobbies and full lobby transparency.
  2. Member state parliamentary scrutiny and accountability on government decision-making at EU level must be strengthened. This should include both pre-decision scrutiny and post decision accountability.
  3. Urgent action is needed by the EU institutions to tackle the democratic deficit in how they operate. These will require reforms of the Council of the EU, the European Council , and the European Commission’s comitology process and advisory groups.
  4. We urgently need new models for citizens to both find out more about, and have a say on, the EU matters with which member states are tasked with deciding. This could include participatory hearings, at the national level, on upcoming pieces of EU legislation; on-line consultations; and more.

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