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PPWR lobbying investigation: European Parliament launches inquiry amid “shady tactics” allegations

#PPWR lobbying investigation: European Parliament launches inquiry amid “shady tactics” allegations

07 Feb 2024 — The European Parliament (EP) is reportedly investigating lobbying practices surrounding the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) after Italian MEP Maria Angela Danzì filed a complaint claiming that “unprecedented pressure” by business groups is interfering with the EP’s democratic rules and regulations.

Policy amendments on specific parts of the PPWR, largely concerning reuse and single-use packaging rules, particularly in the quick service restaurant (QSR) segment, have emerged as focal points in the debate.

In documents seen by Packaging Insights, rival parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum in Italy appear to have adopted the exact same draft texts, in the exact same wording, on regulations concerning reuse targets, disposable packaging rules and deposit systems.

But Eamonn Bates, secretary general of 360 Foodservice — a lobbying group advocating for “a mix between sensible single-use and responsible reuse” — says in his view nothing has been done wrong.

“MEPs are elected and paid to make important decisions. When the lobbying is intense, it underlines the importance of the decisions and how relevant they are as decision-makers. But their job is to listen and decide, even when, at times, the positions expressed may be robust. This cut and thrust is the sign of a healthy democratic system.”

A lobbying flier apparently hung on an MEP’s office.Qatargate rules
The investigation comes amid the ongoing “Qatargate” scandal, in which the EP vice president was arrested along with several other MEPs for allegedly taking large sums of cash in exchange for influencing policy matters on legal issues like human rights.

New rules resulted from the scandal, and lobbyists now have to book official meetings with lawmakers to ensure communication with MEPs is completely transparent.

The European plenary vote on the PPWR last November saw new types of advocacy tactics and an increased level of pressure from lobbyists, explains Bates.

“For perhaps the first time, some industry interests adopted the campaigning style of advocacy often used by the NGO movement in the past. And it worked — they got heard, they got support. There is nothing inappropriate in that,” he says.

However, Larissa Copello, Packaging & Reuse policy officer at Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), tells us that while ZWE “has been campaigning hard for reuse targets in the PPWR, the aftermath of the vote clearly showed that it was influenced by shady tactics.”

She alludes to allegations that MEPs and their colleagues were followed into bathrooms and that lobbyists arrived uninvited at MEP’s offices. “We believe that the tactics used by the industry groups were in clear violation of Qatargate rules.”

“Too much” advocacy?
The accusations that lobbyists were breaking parliamentary rules by not following procedure are denied by Bates and other organizations.

The European Paper Packaging Association’s (EPPA) director general Matti Rantanen says:

“As is the case with most Brussels-focused associations and NGOs, EPPA often produces documents reflecting the common position of their members and shares them with MEPs and other interested parties. This is a normal part of EU advocacy and not one even limited to civil society and advocacy groups. In all this process, EPPA has always carried out science-based advocacy activities that are constructive and in full compliance with EU rules and norms.”

Bates also emphasizes that identical wording in draft texts between rival political groups is a normal part of policymaking in the EU.

“The work of the EP is characterized by coalition-building and alignment of positions to obtain working majorities between the five or seven main political families. Without that there would be chaos and nothing would get done. In my experience, seeing identical amendments from different MEPs simply means that the argumentation from those who promoted a certain position was understood and accepted, regardless of political bias.”

“The investigation is not about corruption or financial impropriety. It has nothing to do with the Qatargate investigation into allegations that two or three MEPs took substantial cash payments from two foreign governments to promote their interests in the EU institutions,” he concludes.

By Louis Gore-Langton

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