Last week, French Green MEP Pascal Canfin launched a call for the establishment of a “Greenpeace of finance” to counter the powerful lobby groups which can dominate EU decision-making over reform of the financial sector. Strong civil society involvement is essential for ensuring that there is a democratic debate over EU policy in this area, he argued. “No NGO in Europe is capable of producing specific expertise like Greenpeace can on nuclear or Amnesty International can on human rights. We need a Greenpeace of finance,” Canfin said.
According to Canfin, “Historically the banking sector isn't a traditional action area for NGOs. The newness of the topic means that they do not spend very much money developing expertise in the area”. He called also for former bankers and traders to become involved.
A consultation was held between MEPs and civil society organisations (CSOs) on this issue under the title “Make Finance Work”, with the aim of exchanging experiences and building joint capacities to influence financial regulation, and of planning joint campaign activities for sustainable finance. Parliament offered to provide funding for the establishment of a “Finance-Watch” umbrella network for an initial period of six months, after which the CSOs would be expected to continue its running on their own. It was stressed by participants that funds would be needed to finance detailed academic studies which could serve as relevant input for drafting legislation, as this is a proven way to affect policy change.
However, despite official recognition by the EU of the importance of an “open, transparent and regular dialogue” with civil society, CSOs often claim that the EU institutions marginalise them and refuse to engage with their demands for greater openness. One notable example is the EU’s bio-fuels policy: last week five environmental groups wrote an open letter to the European Commission demanding that it live up to the Lisbon Treaty’s requirements for transparency over this issue. “We are worried that a pattern of scientific obfuscation and intransparent working is emerging within the Commission regarding the impact of the European Union’s bio-fuel policies,” reads the letter.