The NGO network weaves through EU institutions like a spider’s web

Two months after the Qatari bribery case broke, another debate on NGO transparency took place in the European Parliament. Representative Marcus Pepper (EPP) said: “A small percentage of NGOs threaten the reputation of the whole group because it is not clear who is funding them, while they come and go to the parliament buildings as they please.”. The article reminds us: Pieper actually spoke out about the dangers of CSOs in 2017, after a planned trade agreement with the United States, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, failed as a result of NGO pressure. At the time, Corporate Europe Observatory (the corporate lobby monitor) and environmental organizations Friends of the Earth played the main role in the trade agreement.

However, the portal highlighted:

Both organizations receive significant support, for example, from the Swiss-based Isvara Foundation, and one of its leaders is the Syrian-Lebanese businessman Ayman Al-Ladd, who admitted that he does not like neoliberal and commercial politics.

Von der Leyen also pumps money into NGOs

In addition to the background of NGOs lobbying EU institutions, Follow The Money has examined European Commission payments. As the graph shows, Ursula von der Leyen’s board of directors provided €64.5 million to NGOs in 2021.

After the European Commission, the United States and Germany are the largest sponsors. (source: Follow the money)

However, the amounts shown in the graph only represent direct subsidies. In addition, the European Commission also supports many civil development and environmental protection projects. Along with these, more money is flowing into civilians:

In 2021, Ursula von der Leyen paid out 2.3 billion euros (920 billion forints) to citizens, which is 6% of the committee’s annual budget. On average, the EU body transfers €2 billion to NGOs each year.

But according to the table, the second largest donor backing citizens who exert pressure to influence EU policy is the US government, followed only by wealthier EU member states. In addition, Follow The Money drew attention to the fact that in the case of private donors, US-registered organizations are clearly in the lead.

Examples of such donors include the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Open Societies Foundation founded by Georgi Soros. (Source: Follow the Money)

What are the risks of foreign weight gain?

The majority of experts interviewed by the portal support the participation of civilians in EU decision-making, but they also advise caution due to transparency. For example, Andreea Nastase, assistant professor of European public policy at Maastricht University, emphasized the importance of involving social organisations. As he said, in addition to the business lobby, social organizations should also be heard, and this is a conscious political decision in the European Union. At the same time, it is considered remarkable that so much money comes from the United States.

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“I would be concerned if an organization was funded mostly by a single American source. Then alarm bells should go off. If your funder base is very weak depending on one or a few funders, it could affect your independence, your independence, and your operation.” He said.

Juggling numbers

There is no doubt that the registration interface for companies and organizations that are officially lobbying in the European Union somewhat helps the emergence of companies and organizations that hover around EU decisions. However, as the article points out, almost no one checks the information provided in the database, and moreover, it is not legal for an organization to meet with EU officials in an official setting, that is, it does not register. This is also the case with the Qatari-funded Anti-Impunity Programme.

Moreover, according to the article, the conceptual definition of civic organization is not clear. As a result, organizations representing corporate interests can also register as civilians.

In addition, the costs reported in the transparency interface are incomplete or incorrect. According to the portal’s investigation, based on the costs declared in the database, NGOs that lobby EU institutions spent a total of 23 billion euros in 2021. However, Follow The Money examined the management of nearly a thousand organizations, exceeding the combined budget For the richest hundred organizations, of which 27 billion euros. An example of the discrepancy between the declared budget in the EU database and the real possibilities is the case of the NGO European Values ​​in the Czech Republic, which has a budget of only €53,000 for 2021 listed in the EU register. In contrast, the advertisement posted on their website already includes 1 million euros. In addition to the fact that the example of the Czech organization is not blatant, it also tells us that the largest supporter of the organization “fighting for European values” is the US State Department.

The investigation also revealed that a third of NGOs do not provide information about their funding sources at all.

Most of them don’t even list their supporters on their own websites. These are also augmented by legal and advisory firms, who do not have to refer to their funders in the first place. According to the portal, at the same time, unwanted state authorities in the European Union often use consulting and PR organizations to represent their interests at the European level.

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The full article here You can read.

The featured image is illustrative. (Photo: MTI/EPA/Stephanie Lecocq)

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