Here we review two books by Scottish academic Justin Greenwood: Inside the EU Business Associations1 and The Effectiveness of EU Business Associations.2 The books tell an occasionally interesting story about the role of business associations in EU lobbying for corporate interests. But there is more to this story than merely the content of the books. Behind the sometimes dry academic language there is the reality of disturbingly close connections between academics and the Brussels lobbying fraternity. Greenwood, who also acts as Expert Advisor to the Employers' Group in the EU's Economic and Social Committee, is a prime example of an academic scholar who helps to advance the corporate agenda.
These two books are the latest product in a succession of research projects on business associations and lobbying at the EU level conducted by Justin Greenwood, Jean Monnet Professor of Public Policy at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. A former police cadet and one time Student Union president, he has made a speciality of studying 'interest representation' in the EU - particularly corporate lobbying. Greenwood is not an isolated or even particularly unusual example of the connections between academicians and corporate interests. But his case is interesting as it shows the close integration of parts of academia and sections of the transnational corporate lobby in the European arena.
The first book, Inside the EU Business Associations, is the result of a research project in which Greenwood interviewed 200 members and staff of EU business associations. While the book examines the circumstances in which EU business associations can be 'strong and cohesive players' on the EU stage and why some fail to cohere, its underlying agenda is to provide information for business associations and the wider corporate lobby on how they can build their effectiveness.
This agenda carries across to the second book, The Effectiveness of EU Business Associations, a collection of papers from a conference on business associations. The conference was the first of two co-organised by Greenwood and held in Brussels in September 2000 and May 2002. They were funded by the European Union Framework Five programme with an award of €66,000 to Greenwood and Brussels-based Ernst and Young Association Management, a branch of one of the 'big five' auditing firms which operates European business associations on a consultancy basis. Both conferences were heavily sponsored by corporate interests and lobbying firms, as well as media.3
Addressing the issue of effectiveness of business associations, the September 2000 conference was attended by a mix of academics, business leaders, lobbying consultants and a few Commission officials. Speakers included heavyweights of key corporate lobby groups, such as the European employers' federation UNICE, the chemical lobby CEFIC and the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), the main EU umbrella group for large US-based corporations. Among the 50 speakers at the event were representatives from business associations or large firms representing sectors such as chemicals, finance, electricity, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and food.4 In his opening speech, Baron Williamson, former Secretary General of the European Commission, referred to the conference as "the definitive conference in the field."5 According to one report the conference was so successful in attracting sponsors and commercial delegates that it made a profit of £20,000 (approximately €30,000).6
The May 2002 conference, 'The Challenge of Change in EU Business Associations', saw the organisers go even further in blowing their own trumpet.7 With all the hype of an advertising copywriter, the conference website raved, "This is without doubt the most impressive conference agenda on the subject ever, bringing together the leading thinkers and practitioners".8 Speakers included Brian Ager (former Secretary General of biotech lobby group Europabio), Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz (former Secretary General of UNICE), Roy Gentry (EU Affairs Manager of AmCham) and Paul Adamson, the Chairman of Weber Shandwick Adamson, one of the largest lobbying firms in Brussels. Also addressing the conference were leaders (past and present) of trade associations from industry sectors such as IT, steel, textiles, media, financial services and chemicals. Three members of the European Commission spoke, together with representatives from NGO's and the European Parliament,9 but the event was unmistakably dominated by corporate interests.
Greenwood seems well connected with corporate interests in Brussels, especially with AmCham and UNICE. Connections with former UNICE boss Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz seem to be particularly close. Last year Count Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz was appointed Visiting Professor at Robert Gordon University, where Greenwood works. The University internal newsletter reported his appointment under the headline 'European hero', with a photo featuring a smiling Greenwood with Count Tyszkiewicz.10 These professional and personal connections are cemented with research funding as well as sponsorship.
Many academics are more than happy to take consultancy/research money from corporate interests. Greenwood has, for instance, undertaken consultancy work for the pharmaceutical industry.11 In his February 2002 CV posted on the internet he acknowledges: "Over £200,000 (approximately €300,000) in income attracted over last five years, from outlets including the European Commission, British Academy, Carnegie Foundation, Ernst & Young, Cargill, Pioneer Overseas Corporation, and EU and domestic trade associations including the EU Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce."12 In summer 2001 Greenwood interviewed a number of "senior EU policy makers" on behalf of "a cross-sectoral business association under confidentiality conditions." As the only cross-sectoral association listed, presumably this is AmCham. The rest of the money - around £160,000 (approximately €240,000) (minus the uncharacteristically unpublicised money from AmCham) funded the research for Inside the EU Business Associations.13
All of this schmoozing, conferencing, book writing, sponsorship, research funding, consultancy and academic honours are typical of the myriad connections between corporate-friendly academics and corporate interests. It reaches another level with the contribution to Greenwood's research programme by Cargill and Pioneer Overseas Corporation, both much criticised agri-business corporations with huge biotechnology interests. Another link between these companies and Greenwood is the European Centre for Public Affairs (ECPA), a corporate-friendly seminar and lobbying training organisation with close links to the European Commission. Both Cargill and Pioneer are corporate members of ECPA, while Greenwood sits on the ECPA board, together with Ruth Rawling, Vice President Public Affairs for Cargill and Tim Stocker, European Director of Government Affairs for Pioneer.14 ECPA was one of the sponsors of the conference that Greenwood organised in September 2000.
In view of Greenwood's alliances and funding sources, it's unsurprising that on questions of corporate power in Europe, he argues the corporate case in his books. But the bias is hidden behind a pseudo-detached style and extended discussions about the micro-politics of business associations.
Despite the title, Inside EU Business Associations fails to give us much of a glimpse 'inside'. Greenwood gave his interviewees the guarantee that "the results would not be presented in a way that could identify the respondent" and only gives a list of associations interviewed (without the names of the member firms interviewed).15 In the main, the book consists of rather general descriptions of processes. This was done, he claims, to improve the findings, but it leaves the analysis systematically compromised by the lack of supporting evidence and identification of the groups and individuals he is discussing. It is further compromised by his evident desire to say as few critical words as possible about business associations.
In his discussion of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), for example, he notes that all observers, foe and friend alike, regard the ERT as a powerful player, although he points out that it is easy to exaggerate its power.16 This is superficially true, but Greenwood's analysis lacks substance. He becomes more concrete, however, when discussing UNICE. Greenwood effusively praises his friend Zygmunt Tyszkiewicz, whom he credits with almost single-handedly reshaping the employers federation. "A good deal of the credit for turning the organisation into a lively and dynamic centre of business representation belongs to him," writes Greenwood, "including the creation of the UNICE Advisory and Support Group." Given the evidence from other authors in The Effectiveness of EU Business Associations, on the growing influence of TNCs on business associations, particularly UNICE, it might have been more accurate to describe the transformation as part of a historical trend in which Tyszkiewicz (who worked for Shell in Africa and Greece) played a role as advocate for globalising TNCs.
Throughout Greenwood's meticulous documentation of all of this micro politics he neglects to discuss the context within which it happens; the context of globalisation, flexible labour markets and free trade. The index does not have an entry for 'globalisation' and one of the lobby groups most associated with it, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), gets only a passing reference. Greenwood interprets his brief so narrowly that he fails to see the bigger picture of global corporate strategy. Despite noting at the beginning of the book that one of the key issues is corporate bias and the role of pressure groups, he does not discuss this at any length in the rest of the book. 17
Business associations have a variety of lobbying functions and depending on whether they are federations of national associations or direct member organisations, they have a varying level of ability to come to common positions quickly and proactively. Associations like the ERT or the TABD, and some other direct membership organisations, are able to respond quickly and can use their organisation as a means of increasing the influence they would have individually. One recent association based on direct membership is the pleasant sounding European Modern Restaurants Association (EMRA), which is in reality a front for nine European and US fast food companies, such as Burger King, McDonalds, Autogrill and Quick.18 Their association, like their food, has little substance: it is a virtual organisation with no offices and staff, serving the nine member companies as a collective lobbying front. Greenwoods has even a term for it: the 'collective cloak'. Corporations often make use of such collective (pseudo)identities to hide their particular interests.19
One of the few authors in the edited collection to deal explicitly with questions of corporate power is Bastiaan van Apeldoorn, who analyses the ERT as "exemplary of a growing trend in which TNCs, their leaders, and their organisations have come to dominate the landscape of business interests in Europe."20 Furthermore, Van Apeldoorn notes that "the globalisation process has enhanced the exit option of TNCs and thus their leverage over both governments and other socio-economic interest such as trade unions."21 He concludes that "the effectiveness and power of European business groups stands in stark contrast to that of labour and other societal interests".22
The increasing take-over of EU business associations by large TNCs is one of the consistent themes of The Effectiveness of EU Business Associations. Lobbyist Daniel Guéguen notes that whereas in the 1990s decision-making power rested with national member associations, now "the large companies are running the show."23 Although this process is not widely acknowledged as a symptom of globalisation and increasing corporate dominance, there is abundant evidence of its importance. Jean-Marie Devos, the executive director of the powerful chemical industry association CEFIC, notes the increased importance of direct firm membership as a consequence of 'global competition'.24
Maria Green Cowles notes the creation of the European Enterprise Group, an initiative of the Confederation of British Industry (the British employers group) as a means of transforming UNICE.25 As a result of this initiative, transnational corporations were allowed to become direct members of UNICE. She also notes the formation of the ERT in 1983, the creation of the EU Committee of AmCham in 1985 and the inauguration of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue in Seville in 1995, all consisting of direct corporate membership rather than federations of national bodies. All of these bodies have come to exercise considerable power in Brussels as advocates for transnational corporations.26 The latter two organisations, of course, also include US multinationals and indicate the growing interpenetration of international investment between the US and EU. US multinationals also feature prominently in UNICE's advisory group.27
Most recent, TNC lobby groups include Asian (mainly Japanese) firms - an indication of the ongoing globalisation of business lobby groups. The Global Business Dialogue on e-commerce (GBDe), set up in 1999, is an example discussed by Cowles. She notes a key difference between TABD and GBDe, which is that while the former looks "to governments to provide... changes in regulatory policy", the GBDe "emphasises self-regulatory or co-regulatory approaches to policy making." This reflects a wider trend in global governance, whereby regulatory authorities such as the EU and corporations are increasingly collaborating to undermine regulation by government and allow corporations to regulate themselves. This is linked with the 'corporate social responsibility' discourse whereby US and EC officials encourage TNCs to engage in 'dialogue' with civil society 'stakeholders'. Indeed the GBDe has developed discussions with Consumers International and BEUC (the EU consumer umbrella body) in an effort to, as Cowles put it, "bring greater legitimacy to its consumer confidence initiatives," and no doubt also as a means of trying to co-opt consumer groups.28
As Bastiaan van Apeldoorn notes, "almost all academic observers agree that from the mid-1980s onwards, the shaping of European policymaking by private interests has been rather one-sidedly dominated by business."29 Even Greenwood appears to agree with this, writing in 1996:
"Not only have large businesses, through ERT, driven fundamental economic issues on the European agenda, but they have also intervened effectively in infrastructure support areas, such as education and training of the workforce. Rather than ERT having to 'pressure' a Commissioner to come to the meeting table [there is] evidence of the reverse process, i.e. of the Commission coming to ERT for policy formulation. ERT members are sought for strategy meetings or to present the Commission's case at press conferences."30
Greenwood refers to this as "ingrained involvement of private interests in public policy making."31 This is not, so the argument goes, a result of ephemeral lobbying and presentational strategies, but much more fundamental: "No matter how sharp the haircuts or suits... no matter how wily the tactics" of lobbyists, interests not in possession of "key resources" cannot gain insider access. In other words multinational corporations gain access by virtue of being multinational corporations and having "more resources at their disposal than do member states."32 Indeed at one stage Greenwood describes this privileged position as happening "naturally."33 But in a curious reversal Greenwood seems recently to have changed his mind on the dominance of business.
In 2001 Greenwood was twice appointed Expert Adviser to the Employers' Group of the EU Economic and Social Committee (ESC).34 His role was to help draft their position first on the EU's White Paper on Governance, and then on the 'Future of Europe'. According to a Robert Gordon University press release, "Professor Greenwood was nominated by the employers' group in recognition of his work with EU business and employer associations."35 Greenwood noted: "I am very honoured to have been nominated for this role, and look forward to helping with these significant initiatives to enhance democracy in the European Union." He later said, "The EU is trying to widen the debate on its future development. This is a real attempt to improve the democracy of the EU and bring it closer to its citizens. I shall use my specialist research knowledge of interest groups and their representation in the EU to help outline a way in which this can happen. The challenge is to find ways in which everyone can make their input to EU decision making."36 These statements seem less than honest since his role for the Employers Group was to resist any improvements in democracy, as these would threaten corporate interests.
In his work for the Employers Group, Greenwood abandons arguments about the dominance of business as advanced in his two books and instead proposes the thesis that business is actually weak at the EU level. In several public presentations between September 2001 and April 2002,37 Greenwood argues that "the structure of EU interest representation is already highly pluralist... The fragmentation of EU policy making insulates the EU from domination by any one particular constituency... Business is the principal loser as a result, and the weakness of business provides space for other actors to flourish."38 These other actors are public interest groups who are "encouraged by an open door for them... Some citizen interests are extremely well resourced, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth... The concerns of public interest groups are well represented in the EU policy process."39
The weakness of business and strength of public interests, exists together with a 'lobby-free-for-all' in which - according to Greenwood's figures - there are around 20,000 interest units "which have accepted the need to engage in EU politics in some way." Included here are all EU national associations and direct membership organisations. Yet even by Greenwood's figures it is clear that the overwhelming majority of these (two thirds) represent business interests. About 10,000 lobbyists work in EU trade associations at the EU level and another 1000-2000 in national trade associations in Brussels. If we include the corporations which have their own EU offices (around 350) and the commercial lobbyists (over 2000 based in Brussels)40 then there are roughly five business lobbyists to every European Commission official compared with around one public interest lobbyist for each. This is a truly staggering figure, but one to which - naturally - Greenwood is not anxious to draw attention.
It is difficult to satisfactorily explain Greenwood's abrupt about face on the power of business. First it is 'dominant', then it is relatively 'weak'. It is possible that he has simply changed his mind. However, his work for the Employers Group of the ESC sees him take on his most high profile 'committed' work for corporate interests. It may be that working at the sharp end of corporate lobbying forced him to declare more openly in favour of the corporate interest and that revision of his previous, less obviously partisan, public positions has been the cost.
On the basis of the argument about the lobby-free-for-all, Greenwood concludes that there is no democratic deficit in the EU but rather a 'democratic overload'. The solution for 'good governance' is to create an "organised system of EU-outside interest relations".41 The way to do this is to ensure that interest groups are 'representative'. Both AmCham42 and UNICE43 in their responses to the Governance White Paper, made similar points. These plausible-sounding arguments are no more than a ruse designed to exclude public interests from access and power. The most 'representative' body in the EU is the people of the EU, but an enhanced democratic role for European voters is not even being discussed. Paradoxically, Greenwood favours a corporatist system that would guarantee the dominance of business interests and neoliberal economics by excluding 'unrepresentative' public interest groups: "I hold that a more organised system of dialogue with outside interests would strengthen governance, whereas dilution and additional tiers of dialogue may weaken it. Whilst there are costs in the remedies I have suggested [these are] principally those of image problems of privileged access."44 Along with UNICE and AmCham, Greenwood is opposed to meaningful consultation and would impose a system of 'dialogue' which would give privileged access to corporate interests, an outcome he refers to as a problem of 'image'. This is an approach which points in the direction of a dramatically enhanced corporate Europe.
But to criticise Greenwood's writing only for its lack of acknowledgement of the aims of corporate lobbying in ensuring 'flexible' labour markets and enhanced profits at the expense of labour, citizenry and the planet is to slightly miss the point. His Inside the EU Business Associations is not a disinterested account of the world of the business association but rather a contribution to the struggle for business ascendancy. So it should not be regarded solely by how well it explains the role of business associations (and that is - should it need saying - not very well at all). The key question is: how useful to business are scholars like Greenwood? Certainly business associations and TNCs themselves seem to have a use for him, in that they patronise his conferences, present papers to them and pay him to conduct research and consultancy. They also appear to form strong professional and even personal ties. All of this suggests that Greenwood and the many other academics who are engaged in similar networks actually perform a useful networking and legitimising function for transnational corporations.