Europe Inc.   Chapter 2.1

Writing the Script:
The European Roundtable of Industrialists

Although still largely unknown among the general public, the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) is one of the main political forces on the European scene. Thanks to its close connections with top European politicians, the ERT played a crucial role in pushing for the Internal Market in the 1980s. Later, the Roundtable put the Trans-European Networks (TENs) of transport infrastructure on the political agenda, and it left clear fingerprints on the 1991 Maastricht Treaty.

The ERT, founded in 1983, consists of 45 ‘captains of industry’ from large European transnational corporations including British Petroleum, Daimler-Benz, Fiat, Shell and Siemens.

More than just another lobby organization trying to benefit from the European integration process, the ERT was formed with the express intention of reviving European integration and shaping it to the preferences of European transnational corporations. Today, the ERT continuously repeats the mantra of competitiveness to push for further deregulation within Europe and for global free trade, and this message does not fall on deaf ears. With its new buzzword, ‘benchmarking’, the ERT hopes to institutionalize international competitiveness as the primary objective of the EU.

The ERT differs from other industry lobby groups in Brussels in that it remains aloof from lobbying on detailed legislation. Instead, the ERT concentrates on painting the big picture, and filling the EU’s agenda with new, sizeable projects. As secretary-general Keith Richardson puts it: “We don’t deal with sectoral issues, we don’t deal with national issues, we only talk about the overall questions.”1 The key behind the ERT’s success is its extremely privileged access to decision-makers, both at the national and the European level.

CEOs at Work

The ERT’s 45 members come from corporations with a combined turnover of 550 billion ECU and more than 3 million employees worldwide. The office in central Brussels however is fairly modestly staffed with about 15 employees. The most important part of the ERT’s work is done by the 45 corporate executive officers (CEOs) and their assistants. Each ERT member is a highly influential industrialist, with smooth access to both national and European decision-makers. The ERT has some 10 working groups in areas like North/South, education and competitiveness. All ERT members meet twice a year for the Plenary Sessions, where major decisions are taken, reports approved, etc. In between plenaries, a Steering Committee plans activities. On ‘areas of permanent interest’, Watchdog groups are established with experts from ERT companies as members. An example is the Environment Watchdog Group.




Helmut O. Maucher, Nestlé.................................... (Switzerland)


André Leysen, Gevaert................................................ (Belgium)

David Simon, British Petroleum..................... (United Kingdom)


Americo Amorim, Amorim Group................................ (Portugal)

Percy Barnevik, ABB Asea Brown Boveri............ (Switzerland)

Jean-Louis Beffa, Saint-Gobain.................................... (France)

Marcus Bierich, Robert Bosch.................................. (Germany)

Peter Bonfield, BT.......................................... (United Kingdom)

Cor Boonstra, Philips..................................... (the Netherlands)

Simon Cairns, B.A.T. Industries................... (United Kingdom)

Bertrand Collomb, Lafarge Coppée............................. (France)

François Cornélis, Petrofina....................................... (Belgium)

Alfonso Cortina, Repsol.................................................. (Spain)

Gerhard Cromme, Fried. Krupp............................... (Germany)

Étienne Davignon, Société Générale de Belgique.... (Belgium)

Carlo de Benedetti, Olivetti............................................. (Italy)

Casimir Ehrnrooth, Kymmene Corp............................ (Finland)

Jean-René Fourtou, Rhone-Poulenc............................ (France)

José Antonio Garrido, Iberdrola.................................... (Spain)

Fritz Gerber, Hoffmann-La Roche................. ..... (Switzerland)

Ronald Hampel, ICI...................................... (United Kingdom)

Ulrich Hartmann, Veba............................................. (Germany)

Cornelius Herkströter, Royal Dutch/Shell... (UK/Netherlands)

Daniel Janssen, Solvay............................................... (Belgium)

Jak Kamhi, Profilo Holding.......................................... (Turkey)

David Lees, GKN.......................................... (United Kingdom)

Flemming Lindeløv, Carlsberg................................. (Denmark)

Pietro Marzotto, Marzotto............................................... (Italy)

Jérôme Monod, Lyonnaise des Eaux-Dumez.............. (France)

Egil Myklebust, Norsk Hydro..................................... (Norway)

Harald Norvik, Statoil.................................................. (Norway)

Theodore Papalexopoulos, Titan Cement.................... (Greece)

Heinrich von Pierer, Siemens.................................... (Germany)

Lars Ramqvist, L.M. Ericsson..................................... (Sweden)

Edzard Reuter, Airbus Industrie........... (European Consortium)

Cesare Romiti, Fiat............................................................ (Italy)

Nigel Rudd, Pilkington.................................... (United Kingdom)

Richard Schenz, OMV................................................... (Austria)

Manfred Schneider, Bayer......................................... (Germany)

Jürgen Schremp, Daimler Benz.................................. (Germany)

Louis Schweitzer, Renault.............................................. (France)

Michael Smurfit, Jefferson Smurfit............................. (Ireland)

Morris Tabaksblat, Unilever......................... (the Netherlands)

Marco Tronchetti Provera, Pirelli.................................... (Italy)

Mark Wössner, Bertelsmann.................................... (Germany)


Source: ERT, 1997 (for an up-to-date list, see the ERT web site)


The Founding Fathers

The founders of the ERT were Umberto Agnelli of Fiat, Wisse Dekker of Philips and Pehr Gyllenhammer of Volvo. Although there had been little contact between multinational corporations and the European Commission throughout the 1970s, this changed dramatically in the early 1980s.2 The Roundtable was enthusiastically supported by the European Commission from the outset, in particular by Étienne Davignon, then Commissioner for Industry and the Internal Market, and former Commissioner for Finance, François Xavier Ortoli. And during the Presidency of Jacques Delors, links between Europe’s industrial leaders and the Commissioners were made even tighter.

Giving Birth to the Single Market

This new alliance between the European Commission and the ERT played a crucial role during preparations for the Internal Market. In 1985, ERT chairman Wisse Dekker launched his proposal and timetable for the removal of all obstacles to trade within the European Economic Community.3 The European Commission was easily convinced. This pressure from industrial leaders for unification of European markets was precisely the momentum towards further European integration that the Commission was seeking. Shortly afterwards, Commission President Jacques Delors held a speech in the European Parliament which closely paralleled Dekker’s proposal. Delors set 1992 as the deadline for the Internal Market, just two years later than the ERT’s optimistic 1990 target. A few months later, Lord Cockfield, Commissioner for Industry, published his White Paper which became the basis of the 1986 Single European Act.

Behind this quick success lay an intensive lobbying offensive, waged by the ERT. Their goal was to convince EU member state governments that a unified home market – strengthening the competitiveness of European industry against rivals in Japan and the United States – was the only way out of the economic crisis. According to ERT secretary-general Keith Richardson,

“Wisse Dekker of Philips made it [the Internal Market] his main priority for four years. Bearing in mind that when it was first launched governments were not very keen, we helped a lot to push it through.”7

Over the next years, the ERT concentrated on ensuring the speedy implementation of the Single European Act. Members of the ERT’s Internal Market Support Committee (IMSC) had numerous meetings with government and Commission representatives.8 In the end, the ERT got its free trade zone with 340 million consumers and the Commission got the relaunch of European integration that it desired.

After this first success, the ERT turned to its next priority: European transport infrastructure. Arguing that existing infrastructure was a barrier to economic growth, the ERT worked side by side with the Commission to successfully argue for the Channel Tunnel and the environmentally controversial Trans-European Networks (TENs). TENs are the largest transport infrastructure plan in history, and include the Scandinavian Scan-Link bridge, a series of high-speed train links, numerous airport expansions and 12,000 kilometers of new motorways.

Lost in Concrete

Large-scale investments in motorways, high-speed trains and other Europe-wide transport infrastructure has been on the ERT’s agenda since its first report, Missing Links, published in 1984.4 In 1991, the European Commission presented its Trans-European Roads Network program (TERN), the plans for 12,000 kilometers of new motorways in Europe as part of the overall plans for Trans-European Networks (TENs). Later that year, a commitment to construct Trans-European Networks (including high-speed trains, waterways and airports) was written into the Maastricht Treaty. The TENs chapter of the Treaty contained no reference to the enormous environmental damage that such a massive expansion of transport infrastructure would entail. Greenpeace has estimated that TENs will result in a 15-18% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.5

Cooperation with the European Commission was close and instrumental for placing TENs on the political agenda, and the Commission funded many ERT activities on transport issues.6 Furthermore, the ERT was also heavily involved in the detailed shaping of TENs. It was, for instance, one of the seven road lobby groups in the official Motorway Working Group which put together the list of TERN projects.

Despite this partnership, the ERT has been concerned about the relaxed speed at which these motorways and high-speed train links are being constructed. Prior to the 1992 EU Summit in Edinburgh, the ERT wrote to heads of state calling for additional funding for TENs. In Edinburgh, EU leaders agreed to set up a special investment fund of seven billion ECU.

Since 1993, the ERT has transferred most of its activities in the area of transport to its infrastructure institute ECIS, the European Centre for Infrastructure Studies (see chapter 2.2).

The Maastricht Treaty and EMU

The ERT was very active in negotiations about the Maastricht Treaty, meeting regularly with commissioners such as Frans Andriessen, MacSharry, Sir Leon Brittan and Commission President Jacques Delors. Meanwhile, individual Roundtable members met with powerful national policy-makers in their respective governments. For the ERT, one of the most tangible results of the Maastricht Treaty was the project for a European Monetary Union (EMU). As early as 1985, the ERT had argued that the Internal Market must be completed with a single currency. The EMU continued to be a leading ERT demand in its 1991 report Reshaping Europe. This report also presented a timetable for EMU implementation which bears remarkable similarity to the one incorporated in the Maastricht Treaty a few months later. However, the main work preparing the ground for the EMU was not done by the ERT, but rather by the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe (AMUE). The AMUE was founded in 1987 by five transnational corporations, each of which was also represented in the ERT (see chapter 2.5).

More McJobs

Flexible labor markets is a key word both for the ERT and the European Commission. To adapt labor markets to their wishes, corporations simply remove regulations intended to improve working conditions and job security for employees. In the ERT’s neoliberal logic, such regulations are a kind of ‘hidden tax’.9 The end results have been described as ‘McJobs’, with sliding salaries, flexible work schedules, lack of social benefits and loose terms of employment.

Delors, the White Paper and GATT

Perhaps the most noteworthy example of cozy collaboration between the ERT and the Commission President is Delors’ December 1993 White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. The White Paper, endorsed by heads of state and government at the EU Summit in Brussels, was prepared in close cooperation with members of the Roundtable. During the autumn of 1993, the ERT was busy preparing its report Beating the Crisis, and drafts of this text and the White Paper were regularly exchanged. At the media launch for the White Paper, Jacques Delors thanked the ERT for its support in the preparations. Just a week earlier, Delors had taken part in the ERT press conference where Beating the Crisis was launched. Side by side, the two reports are strikingly uniform in their calls for deregulation, flexible labor markets and transport infrastructure investments. It was in Delors’ White Paper that international competitiveness was for the first time presented as a key objective of EU policy.

World Trade Organization: Speeding Up the Race to the Bottom

With the completion of the Uruguay Round in 1994, crucial decisions affecting billions of people were transferred to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was created after World War II, but was limited to handling discussions about tariffs and quotas. The WTO has a much expanded mandate, also dealing with non-tariff barriers to trade and every imaginable regulation.

Moreover, the veto power that national governments wielded until the end of the Uruguay Round has been withdrawn. Any member country can now complain to the WTO’s Dispute Settling Body about the policies or laws of any other country on the grounds that they are obstacles to free trade. Decisions about such complaints are made by unelected WTO bureaucrats in secret tribunals, and cannot be appealed. Countries not obeying WTO legislation face trade sanctions.

The WTO’s lack of transparency and accountability provide almost ideal conditions for effective industry lobbying.10 Some of the poorest countries, in contrast, cannot afford representatives in Geneva and therefore have difficulty participating in the complex WTO system. The WTO framework consists of 24,000 pages of legal agreements. – which constitutes an immediate barrier to the participation of citizens’ organizations in the system.11

The first decisions of the WTO Dispute Settling Body give a disturbing taste of what can be expected in the future. Following a complaint from Venezuela, the US was told to modify (i.e. lower) its environmental regulations for gasoline.12 An ongoing case is the US and Canadian demand that the EU lift its ban on meat with hormones, which is considered dangerous by European health authorities. The EU has also been challenged on its banana trade regime. This conflict is the result of banana corporations such as Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole pushing the US, Guatemalan, Mexican, Honduran and Ecuadorian governments to approach the WTO dispute panel.13 European corporations, on the other hand, have challenged US food-labeling laws. A race to the bottom has begun, which can continue until all regulations protecting people and the environment have been sacrificed on the global free trade altar.

WTO President Renato Ruggiero does not exaggerate when he states that the WTO is “no longer writing the rules of interaction among separate national economies. We are writing the constitution of a single global economy.”14 The First Ministerial Meeting of the WTO – in Singapore in December of 1996 – was “hijacked by developed countries, pushing their own agenda, which was the further opening up of markets in the South to their companies.”15 Delegations from developed countries were jubilant that they had got almost everything they had wanted, including an information technology agreement (ITA) and concessions from the South to incorporate the new areas of investment policy, competition policy and government procurement into the WTO’s future work.

The ERT views the completion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which expanded the access of European TNCs to fast-growing Southern markets, as one of its main achievements. According to Keith Richardson, “We had a number of conversations with government leaders in which we made the point that the health of the European economy as a whole needed a satisfactory conclusion of the Uruguay Round.”16 One such meeting was a two-hour luncheon appointment with French Prime Minister Balladur, in which 14 ERT members encouraged France to proceed with signing the GATT agreement.17

Whereas the ERT of the 1980s was split between two factions, one preferring Euro-protectionism and the other global free trade, today’s Roundtable is unanimously pushing for the opening of markets around the world.

Relations with Santer

The ERT’s intimate relations with the previous Commission have not been spoiled by new Commission President Jacques Santer. Richardson explains: “There’s a good relationship, because in many ways we have a common interest [...] By and large, our main priorities are the same.”18 He continues: “We cooperate, we discuss subjects with the Commission, from time to time we meet them, and from time to time we send them papers in order to ensure that they know what we think. And I think they know very well what our concerns are.”19 An example of the ERT’s fruitful cooperation with Santer is the creation of the Competitiveness Advisory Group (CAG), following a decision taken at the December 1994 Essen EU Summit. Jacques Santer personally selected the members of this official EU working group in early 1995, giving leading ERT members a central role. The advice presented by the CAG in its bi-annual reports is strikingly similar to the policies promoted by the ERT (see also chapter 2.3). The ERT’s strong grip on the CAG is not an anomaly. When Industry Commissioner Bangemann set up a working group on telecommunications in February 1994, six of the twenty members were from the ERT.20 Among the twenty members, there was no single representative of consumer groups, trade unions or small and medium-sized companies.


EU President Jacques Santer’s Confidence Pact: Action for Employment in Europe, was launched at the Florence EU Summit in June of 1996, during a period when public discontent about rising unemployment in Europe had reached a peak. The EU dubbed this summit the Jobs Summit, and Santer presented a set of proposals for job creation. In fact, the Confidence Pact is largely a reworked version of Delors’ 1993 White Paper, and a new attempt to increase financing for Trans-European Networks (TENs). Santer’s job creation strategy included old and new elements, such as progress towards the single currency (“future generations’ best friend”)21, completion of the single market, deregulation of biotechnology legislation, strengthening of the World Trade Organization, flexible labor markets and ‘lifelong learning’.


Internal Market Revisited

In its most recent reports, the ERT has pushed hard for further deregulation, arguing that the Internal Market is not yet complete. Their main demands are the liberalization of the telecommunications, transport and energy markets, and the harmonization of national taxation systems. All of these demands have now become official EU policy. In late 1996, Commissioner Monti’s report on the Internal Market came to similar conclusions as those in the ERT report entitled European Competitiveness (see box).22 And in December 1996, the Dublin EU Summit gave the Commission the mandate to launch an action plan about the completion of the Single Market. “There is a general convergence of interests,” says Keith Richardson about ERT cooperation with the Commission. “For example, the Commission is very keen to launch a new initiative – it will do this in Amsterdam, parallel to the IGC – on completing the Single Market. This is immensely important to industry and we are talking to them about how we can combine forces.”23 Neither the ERT nor the European Commission seem concerned about the environmental and social impacts of this forceful drive towards virtually unrestricted free trade in Europe.

Monti and the internal Market

In the autumn of 1996, the European Commission published its progress report on the Internal Market, evaluating the accomplishments of the first few years. Internal Market Commissioner Mario Monti concluded that the European free trade zone has been an enormous success, not only increasing trade within the EU, but also boosting external trade, employment, investment, air traffic and much more. It has also, Monti claims, increased cohesion in Europe, allowing the GDP of the poorer EU member states to approach that of richer ones.

Monti was only able to find one problem with the Internal Market; that small and medium-sized companies have profited less than large corporations. He attributed this to the fact that the Internal Market was not yet fully implemented, and “the full effects in terms of competitiveness for European business have yet to be realized.”25 Monti proposed a long list of measures to complete the Internal Market:

Continuing along the lines of the Monti report, the European Commission is currently preparing an action plan for the completion of the Internal Market, which will be presented at the EU Summit in Amsterdam in June of 1997.

Although the Monti report is based on more than 10,000 pages of background research, it remains remarkably superficial. For example, it claims that because national GDP figures have become less disparate, the Internal Market has increased cohesion in the European Union. Yet just a few weeks before the launch of the Monti report, five other Commissioners presented a report which concluded that the differences between regions in Europe are increasing, on measures of both income and unemployment.24 Economic development in Europe is concentrated in a number of increasingly rich regions, such as the so-called ‘golden banana’ area (London, Rotterdam, Paris, Munich, Milan), whereas many other regions are left in the dust with high levels of unemployment. However, social inequalities are on the rise even within the ‘prosperous’ regions.

Remarkably, the Monti Report fails to mention the negative effects that the proposed deregulation and privatization (for example of the transport sector) would have on employment levels in Europe. The Commission report also appears blind to the environmental impacts of further steps towards uncontrolled free trade. The deregulation of energy markets, for example, will result in lower prices which will encourage higher consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.


The latest tool proposed by the ERT in its relentless search for competitiveness is ‘benchmarking’. In its 1996 report Benchmarking for Policy-Makers: The Way to Competitiveness, Growth and Job Creation, the ERT explains that benchmarking means “scanning the world to see what is the very best that anybody else anywhere is achieving, and then finding a way to do as well or better.”25 The report describes how the government of the Netherlands used benchmarking to evaluate the competitiveness of the Dutch economy; this exercise “demonstrated a failure to exploit its full potential.” The comparison between the Netherlands and its competitors showed, among other things, that “the ports were good, but not the roads that served them.” To improve competitiveness, the Dutch government has taken steps to “reduce the ‘wedge’ of tax and social security charges, to simplify regulations and to open markets for new entrepreneurs, and to strengthen both the intellectual and the physical infrastructure.”26

“Governments must recognize today that every economic and social system in the world is competing with all of the others to attract the footloose businesses.”27

The benchmarking gospel has also been spread through the Competitiveness Advisory Group (see chapter 2.3), and it has been received with open arms by the European Commission. The ERT has organized several seminars on benchmarking with Commission and government officials, and the Commission recently established a special working group, led by Industry Commissioner Bangemann, with the mission of introducing benchmarking as a leading principle in EU policy-making.

The introduction of benchmarking in all policy areas is exactly what the ERT hopes for. If the benchmarking mission succeeds, and it looks as if it will, international competitiveness will be institutionalized as the primary criterion for decision-making. It will move decision-making away from the political towards a technical sphere, and will consolidate the dominance of neoliberal policies in virtually every field of policy-making.

“People sometimes ask the question: What do we do if we get to the first of January [1999] and not everybody is ready? But I don’t think that’s the question for us. What is important is that because the pressure is there, governments are doing things that they should have done anyhow. Of course they should have put their finances in order, but they didn’t. It is the pressure that is making governments react. It is creating its own dynamic. It has transformed the shape of public finance in Europe. You see this very obviously in Spain and Italy, you see it very much in Belgium, and you also see it in France and Germany.”

Keith Richardson on the EMU28

EMU Criteria as Benchmarking

For the ERT, the criteria for European Monetary Union as laid out in the Maastricht Treaty are an example of “what benchmarking is about.” According to Keith Richardson,

“Maastricht has put enormous pressure on every country in the EU, even on those which do not intend to join the Monetary Union, to bring their finances in better order and to keep them there.”29
Richardson further elaborates on the EMU as a benchmarking tool:
“A most extraordinary financial reform is taking place all over Europe. And that’s the result of the pressure of the Maastricht criteria. The fundamental thing is to keep up this pressure. Italy will go through more reforms in two years than they have in twenty years. It is terribly important.”30

Global Benchmarking

The ERT does not limit its enthusiasm for benchmarking to use within Europe. In 1993, the Roundtable published a survey of investment conditions in developing countries. In late 1996, the ERT produced an update of this survey called Investment in the Developing World: New Openings and Challenges for European Industry.31 The ERT prides itself in the fact that governments in the South have used the 1993 survey as a benchmarking tool

“by assessing themselves against their neighbors and then implementing further concrete improvements. [...] Thanks to this global benchmarking exercise, many countries in the so-called ‘developing world’ now offer a significantly better environment for investment than they used to.”32

The 1996 survey concludes that Europe is losing out in the benchmarking race:

“Countries in the developing world have realized to what extent the impediments to private foreign and local investment were hurting their own competitiveness. Policy changes, providing better market access for foreign investors and more room for manoeuvre for local business people, are now transforming earlier weaknesses into a formidable competitive challenge. The competitive challenge becomes even more powerful through the fact that in more and more cases these countries move ahead of Europe.”33

The ERT’s purpose is to make European governments look nervously over their shoulders in an endless competitive race with Southern countries. Global benchmarking as proposed by the ERT can be applied to virtually every area imaginable: “In more and more areas, less developed countries and their policies are even getting ahead of Europe. Patentability of genetically modified plants is now possible in several developing countries, but not yet in Europe.”34

The ERT has expressed its worries about watching “other economies moving faster than Europe in deregulating and modernizing the framework provided to private business.” They list examples of Europe’s lack of competitiveness in comparison with developing countries, where privatization has meant that there is “virtually unrestricted access to markets of supply of infrastructure services, like water treatment, sewage systems or telecoms.”35

“This is a footloose world. Companies make products wherever it is best for them to do so, and may change their manufacturing locations from time to time. Consumers everywhere buy products that may come from the other side of the globe. Investment, money, technology, skills, are all moving around to wherever the ground is fertile. ‘The best in the world’ is therefore the only worthwhile standard of comparison.”36

Benchmarking and Policy Competition

Policy competition, between regions, countries or trade blocs, for instance on social or environmental protection, is generally viewed as a threatening result of global free trade. Such competition results in a high-speed race to deregulate, with disastrous results for everything but the competitiveness of large industrial corporations. To the ERT, of course, such processes are extremely useful. “The globalization of markets [triggers and accentuates] competition on rules [...] Competition on rules and benchmarking have proven to be among the most effective drivers of the present process of opening the economy, deregulating and modernizing the institutions for private business investment.”37 Nothing should come in the way of this process, and the ERT emphasizes that international negotiations, such as those within the World Trade Organization (WTO), should “not restrict the dynamic of the competition on rules.” Furthermore, the ERT is not surprisingly opposed to proposals for social and environmental clauses in international trade agreements. The results of such uncontrolled global free trade are clear: a competitive global arena in which only the fittest survive and where social and environmental standards are continuously pulled downwards.

ERT and SMEs

The ERT is aware that rising unemployment in Europe may result in people putting the blame on TNCs. Recent examples of relocations with disastrous effects on employment, such as the closure of the Renault plant in Vilvoorde, Belgium, have increased the image problems of ERT-type corporations. That the ERT has its public relations strategy ready became clear with the release of its latest report in April 1997. A Stimulus to Job Creation: Practical Relationships Between Large and Small Companies claims that “economic restructuring [...] can be carried out in a socially responsible way.”38 The report gives a number of examples of plant closures in which TNCs have tried to circumvent disastrous effects for local communities. Renault, for instance, is praised for its company program which offers employees practical help in the setting up of small businesses.

ERT and the Environment

When it comes to environmental issues, the ERT’s position is that government regulation should be minimized and voluntary action by industry must be encouraged as far as possible. According to secretary-general Keith Richardson, “the wrong thing to do is to just go around and publish new taxes and new regulations. It causes a lot of trouble.”39

The ERT’s environmental policies were mapped out in the 1994 report The Climate Change Debate. At the top of their list of proposed principles is the condition that environmental measures should not “damage the competitiveness of European industry.”40 The report proposes voluntary action by industry, and describes a large number of examples in which TNCs have reduced energy consumption in certain factories. But more importantly, the ERT’s working group on environment (called the Environmental Watchdog Group has firmly rejected the EU’s proposal for a CO2/energy tax as an obstruction to industrial competitiveness. Although the ERT cannot be directly implicated, negotiations on this tax were once again suspended in December of 1994 to the disappointment of the environmental movement.

In late 1997, the ERT will produce a new report on environment. According to Richardson, this report will conclude that “the problem is being taken seriously by governments,” but will also stress “that governments should discuss these problems with industry and find ways of tackling the problems which are helpful to both sides.”41 In the ERT’s opinion, “the European Commission has a tendency to overregulate.” However, Richardson is optimistic that the situation is improving. “This is an area where we have a lot of discussions with them. We have disagreements. But we think that the spirit is less confrontational than it was.”42

“We do quite a lot of things. We don’t make a big fuss about what we’re doing.”43

The examples of the ERT’s activities and influence covered in this report are not by any means exhaustive. For instance, the ERT has worked very actively to influence the EU’s policies on telecommunication and education, with very clear results. In the area of education, for example, the ERT has pushed to fundamentally reshape educational systems to serve the competitiveness of European industry.44 Moreover, it has played an important role in promoting the concept of lifelong learning, a critical components of the ERT’s demand for flexible labor markets. Employees, as the ERT argues, should be ready to adapt to any possible changes in the demand for labor.


1. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, 21 February 1997. That the chapters on the ERT in this report are heavily based on interviews with Keith Richardson is due to the fact that other ERT representatives such as Krupp’s Thomas Geer, spokesperson of the ERT’s IGC Working Group, did not want to answer questions themselves. |back to text|

2. M.L. Green, The Politics of Big Business in the Single Market Program, 1993. |back to text|

3. In his speech Europe 1990, an Agenda for Action. |back to text|

4. ERT, Missing Links, 1984. |back to text|

5. Greenpeace Switzerland, Missing Greenlinks: Examination of the Commission’s guidelines for a decision about the Trans-European Networks and proposal for ecological restructuring, 1995. |back to text|

6. For example, the 1989 study The Need for Renewing Transport Infrastructure in Europe. |back to text|

7. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

8. M.L. Green, The Politics of Big Business in the Single Market Program, 1993. |back to text|

9. ERT, European Competitiveness: The Way to Growth and Jobs, Brussels, 1994, p.5. |back to text|

10. During the December 1996 Ministerial Conference in Singapore, the WTO set up an official NGO center. As the WTO Secretariat does not distinguish business ‘NGOs’ from real citizens’ organizations, the list of accredited NGOs contains national industry federations and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Although not officially accredited, the European Roundtable did have representatives in Singapore. |back to text|

11. Myriam vander Stichele, The World Trade Organization – The Ministerial Conference in Singapore and the Developing Countries: An Introduction, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, November 1996. |back to text|

12. The implementation was delayed by the US Environmental Protection Agency until after the 1996 presidential elections, due to its embarrassing sovereignty implications. In another case, Japan was told to lower its taxes on whiskey, gin and other alcoholic drinks after a complaint by the EU, Canada and the US. |back to text|

13. The EU’s policies on banana’s tariff give positive discrimination to the countries that are part of the Lomé Convention, mainly former colonies of EU countries. |back to text|

14. Ruggiero in a speech to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Source: “WTO Head Calls For Single Global Economy”, Trade News, Vol. 5, No. 16, 5 November 1996, p.1. |back to text|

15. Martin Khor, “WTO – How the Rich Countries Got Their Way”, Third World Resurgence, 77/78, Jan/Feb 1997. |back to text|

16. “The only way you can really do it is by face-to-face meetings, trying to explain the total interest of the European Community in an overall deal, because it will liberalize an enormous amount of world trade.” Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

17. Maria Green Cowles, “The European Roundtable of Industrialists: the Strategic Player in European Affairs”, in J. Greenwood, European Case Book on Business Alliances, 1995. |back to text|

18. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

19. Ibid. |back to text|

20. Including Carlo de Benedetti (Olivetti), Étienne Davignon (Société Générale de Belgique), Jan Timmer (Philips), Candido Velazquez (Telefonica) and Pehr Gyllenhammer (former CEO of Volvo). |back to text|

21. President Jacques Santer, Action for Employment in Europe – A Confidence Pact, European Commission, 1996. |back to text|

22. ERT, European Competitiveness – the way to growth and jobs, Brussels, November 1994.

The Monti Report has the official title The Single Market and Tomorrow’s Europe – A Progress Report from the European Commission, Brussels, 1996. |back to text|

23. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

24. The report was published in October 1996. |back to text|

25. ERT, Benchmarking for Policy-Makers: the Way to Competitiveness, Growth and Job Creation, Brussels, 1996, p.11. |back to text|

26. Ibid. |back to text|

27. Ibid. |back to text|

28. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

29. Ibid. |back to text|

30. Ibid. |back to text|

31. ERT, Brussels, November 1996. |back to text|

32. Ibid. |back to text|

33. Ibid, p.12. |back to text|

34. Ibid. |back to text|

35. Ibid. |back to text|

36. Ibid, p. 15. |back to text|

37. ERT, Benchmarking for Policy-Makers: the Way to Competitiveness, Growth and Job Creation, Brussels, 1996, p.2. |back to text|

38. Restructuring ‘need not mean mass job loss’, Financial Times, 8 April 1997. |back to text|

39. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

40. Another proposal is to recognize “the uncertainties and the global dimensions of the issue”. In this particular case, this means that Europe should not feel too responsible for climate change, as the share of global CO2 emissions from developing countries is growing. |back to text|

41. Personal interview with Keith Richardson, Brussels, 21 February 1997. |back to text|

42. Ibid. |back to text|

43. Ibid. |back to text|

44. For a thorough analysis, see “Bildungsvisionen der Europäischen Grossindustrie”, published by Newsletter, 1995. |back to text|

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