Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Commission sued for lack of transparency

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

Brussels, May 26, 2011 – The European Commission was sued today, accused of violating European transparency laws. Environmental law organisation ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), FERN and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) filed the lawsuit following the Commission’s refusal to provide access to information in decisions relating to the sustainability of Europe’s biofuels policy [1].



The case before the General Court of the EU seeks to annul the Commission’s decision to refuse public access to information about voluntary certification schemes used to ensure compliance with EU criteria on biofuel sustainability. In 2010 a request for information about organisations that had applied to operate the schemes, and how they are chosen, was rejected by the Commission. This was challenged in December, but despite a deadline of 4 February 2011, the Commission has
still not responded [2].



The Renewable Energy Directive sets a 10 per cent target for use of renewable energy in the transport sector - expected to be met by increased production of biofuels. Increased pressure on land driven by the surge in demand for biofuels is resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions as well as threatening vulnerable communities and biodiversity. The sustainability criteria are intended to prevent the most severe environmental impacts by requiring biofuels to protect high carbon stock areas and biodiversity standards set out in the Directive – social impacts are ignored.

Compliance is monitored by accredited voluntary certification schemes. These are accredited by the Commission to gauge whether consignments of biofuels meet sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive. The EU is currently considering which of these schemes it will accredit, but the process has lacked transparency.


James Thornton, ClientEarth CEO, said: “The amount of money at stake over Europe’s biofuels policy is colossal, and so is the potential for environmental devastation. These policies are too important to shield from scrutiny, decision making processes need to be more participatory. We need to know which organisations have applied to run voluntary certification schemes, and how they’ve been chosen, so that we can be certain that they will provide robust and reliable information.”



Robbie Blake, Friends of the Earth Europe’s campaigner on biofuels, said: “The European Commission has continually evaded its legal responsibility to disclose even the most basic information about voluntary certification schemes for Europe’s biofuels. The stakes are high – ineffective certification schemes will give the green light to environmental abuse. We need transparency and participation in EU policy making – not secrecy and suspicion.”



Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, said: “Voluntary schemes, including the roundtables on palm oil and responsible soy, allow industry to greenwash damaging monoculture crops without taking account of the environmental or social costs. The Commission must lift the veil of secrecy or companies will continue to use these schemes to improve their image, without changing the way they operate.”


***

NOTES



[1] An EU comitology committee on the sustainability of biofuels will meet on Friday 27 May to discuss a first series of 7 voluntary certification schemes. Information on the basis of which these schemes have been assessed is not publicly available. Nor is any information available on the other schemes that are still under assessment.



[2] ClientEarth launched two other law-suits against the EU Commission for lack of transparency over biofuels policy in 2010. For details read this press release:
<http://www.clientearth.org/european-union-sued-for-lack-of-transparency>


***

For more information please contact:
George Leigh, ClientEarth, communications officer t. +44 (0) 203 030 5951 | m. +44 (0) 7538 418460 | e.
gleigh@clientearth.org

Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe t. +32 2893 1017, robbie.blake@foeeurope.org

Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, nina@corporateeurope.org

Related issues: 
 

Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
This must-watch film is now online. The film shows how corporations and actors within the Commission are teaming up to demolish a major piece of public health legislation.
Campaign groups today called on members of the European Parliament to back citizens' demands for improved rules to prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. A letter signed by five environment, consumers and farmers groups was sent to all members of the parliament's environment committee, which will debate this controversial issue later in the week.
A few observations on the debate sparked by our open letter on the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission, and on the need for proper scientific advice to EU legislators.
Our correspondence with Pr. Anne Glover, the current Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (CSA), on her role in the European Commission's review of endocrine disrupting chemicals shows how the very existence of her position was used by business-friendly interests to convey key messages to the top of the European Commission's hierarchy, playing a determining role in the massive delay now inflicted to the European Commission's handling of this important public health regulation. We ask that the CSA position is not renewed in the new Juncker Commission.
Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) today criticised the plenary vote of MEPs to approve the Jean-Claude Juncker Commission.
CEO just responded to the European Ombudsman’s public consultation on transparency in the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), outlining suggestions for ending the secrecy in the EU-US trade talks.

Corporate Europe Forum