NO LOBBYING BONANZA FOR IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: With EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini just a few steps away from beatification as a result of the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, you would expect the Brussels lobbying fraternity to be busy invoicing for Iran-related work undertaken in recent months. Not so. Disappointed insiders tell us that most of the lobbying legwork was done in national capitals, with the European External Action Service in Brussels largely overlooked. Sadly for lobbyists, it comes with the territory: foreign policy is the one area in which the European state still rules supreme.
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SANCTION SOLVERS: That’s not to say that local lobbyists will never get their ka-ching moment. The European Commission needs to work out how it can remove sanctions on Iran in a way that will boost EU interests without jettisoning human rights concerns. And guess what? The EEAS has been tasked with the implementation of the deal and is set to propose a joint commission with all sides. Sure, it will be at a ministerial level, but the fact that the EEAS will be running the show and perm reps will be paving the way means the time is right for lobbyists to unleash a charm offensive on their clients’ behalf.
CHINESE WHISPERS: Let’s say you’re a large Chinese company with money to spend and a desire to overcome the mistrust of EU institutions. Who do you turn to? Your trusted lobbyist. As is the case with most major lobbying efforts under way in this town, we know from transparency disclosures that Chinese business lobbyists are active, but details of their dealings don’t paint the whole picture. For example, a few Chinese companies are choosing to lobby directly: Telecom Huawei has met with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström’s deputy head of cabinet, Miguel Ceballos Barón; and telecommunications equipment company ZTE has met with science and research commissioner Carlos Moedas. Other companies are turning to associations to get a lobbying leg-up.
MIDDLE KINGDOM CAMPAIGN: A relatively new entry in the lobbying world is ChinaEU, established at the beginning of 2015 and
describing itself as a business-led international association aimed at “intensifying cooperation, trade and investments in digital products and services.” As yet there is no clear list of which Chinese companies are behind it, but according to its president, Luigi Gambardella, that will become clearer once ChinaEU establishes itself. Gambardella is no stranger to lobbying efforts and currently holds the title of Head of Relations with International Institutions and Organizations with Telecom Italia, Italy’s leading telecoms firm (although Gambardella says his Chinese work has nothing to do with Telecom Italia).
MASONS DISLODGE: Last week, the European Freemasons Alliance (in French, L’Alliance Maçonnique Européenne, or AME) signed up to the Transparency Register. In a slightly unusual approach, the AME declared itself available to take part in any Commission group looking into secularism, education, the fight against poverty, creationism, the aging population, ethics and sects. The message: Call us, we won’t call you. But the AME is not the only lodge in town. France’s largest order, Le Grand Orient de France, signed up last November and the Register features other groups from the U.K., Romania, Spain and Belgium. Brussels Influence sources say the freemasons are keen to meet with Commissioner Frans Timmermans, who deals with fundamental rights.