Eu cash 'carousel' for green lobbyists
IPN News coverage
Environmental groups are receiving millions of pounds in taxpayers' money from Europe, which they then spend to lobby the European Union.
Details of the funding merry-go-round, branded a "self-serving cycle of convenience", are contained in a report criticising the practice.
The figures showed that €3.37million (£3.03million) was handed out to six green groups by the European Commission department in charge of the environment. The money was earmarked as "operating grants" for campaigners such as Friends of the Earth Europe and the World Wildlife Fund's European policy office.
The six groups then spent almost £2.69million lobbying the EU in an attempt to influence policy decisions. The money, used to "represent interests to EU institutions", is declared on a little-known register of lobbyist interests.
Three other organisations, which are part of the influential "Green 10" of environmental groups, received a further £795,000 from the EU but failed to declare how much was spent on lobbying the same body.
Of the Green 10 members, only Greenpeace's European unit did not receive any money from the EU, while it spent £674,000 on lobbying.
The report by the International Policy Network, a London based think tank, concluded: "The EU funds many NGOs [Non-governmental organisations] operating in Brussels whose main purpose is to influence EU policy-making and implementation.
Put simply, the EU uses public funds to pay NGOs to lobby it."
The report by Caroline Boin, the think tank's project director, called for the funding of environmental NGOs to be stopped, claiming: "EU meddling in the funding of NGOs has ruinous effects."
The study suggested that the funding undermined the financial and political independence of the organisations, while enabling a few groups to "crowd out" others working in the same field.
The claims have been strongly denied.
Miss Boin said: "The EU is paying environmental groups to spread its propaganda. This shameful masquerade is corrupting civil society and damaging democracy." The Green 10 member groups, by their own admission, work with the EU to "ensure that the environment is placed at the heart of policymaking" through lobbying. One of its stated aims is to "green" the EU budget.
The group has boasted of "lobbying for a shift in funds away from environmentally damaging measures to those budget lines that deliver public goods and environmental benefits".
The think tank report showed that the largest single grant went to the European Environmental Bureau, which describes itself as the "environmental voice of European citizens focusing on influencing EU policy-making". In 2008, it received £808,362 in EU funding and then spent up to £674,000 on lobbying the EU. In all, the grant of almost £809,000 represented, according to the report, about half the bureau's income.
Ariel Brunner, who works for BirdLife, one of the Green 10 member organisations, at its European division in Brussels, said: "This is just a mudslinging exercise. NGOs find it very hard to compete with industry lobbyists.
"The grant is basically making democracy work by making sure access to the decision makers is not limited to big corporations with large amounts of money."
A European Commission spokesman defended the grants.
"The European Parliament has encouraged NGOs to be involved in EU policy development and implementation, and this is a way for the commission to take on board the opinions of NGOs," he said.