Google, GE get the most face time when lobbying the EU

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2015 4:06 PM

By Julia Fioretti

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google and General Electric are some of the most active companies lobbying the European Commission, the anti-corruption group Transparency International said on Wednesday.

In a report analyzing meetings held by European Commissioners and their staff with companies and organizations over the last six months, Transparency International found that officials held 29 meetings with the U.S. search engine, which is the subject of two high-profile antitrust cases.

General Electric, which is trying to get EU approval for its bid for Alstom's power division, had 26 meetings with senior officials, according to the report.

"GE is a large industrial and technology company with broad interests that impact healthcare, transportation, consumer products, energy, finance and many other industries. We are also actively engaged with the European Commission on our proposed alliance with Alstom,” GE spokesman Seth Martin said in an emailed statement.

A spokesman for Google said: "As we've said before we want to do a better job of listening to Europe's concerns and explaining how our business works in Europe."

The new EU executive, which took office in November, has pushed for more transparency in its dealings with companies and organizations and has begun publishing details of meetings held by senior officials.

The EU also tracks how much companies and organizations spend on lobbying activities, which is published in its Transparency Register.

Google spent between 3.5-3.8 million euros ($3.92-4.26 million) in lobbying activities last year, according to the register, while GE has not entered an amount for 2014. In 2013, it spent between 3.25-5.5 million euros.

Transparency International's report found that more than 75 percent of meetings were held with corporate lobbyists, compared with 18 percent with non-governmental organizations and four percent with think tanks.

"The evidence of the last six months suggests there is a strong link between the amount of money you spend and the number of meetings you get," said Daniel Freund, a policy officer at Transparency International, referring to the EU's Transparency Register.

Transparency International listed the top 10 organizations by number of meetings, which included environmental campaign groups WWF and Greenpeace.

Officials working in the fields of climate, energy, finance and digital policy got the most attention from lobbyists, Transparency International's report said.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti. Editing by Jane Merriman)