The EU-green complex: How the EU funds green lobby groups

Demonstrators in Marienborg, Denmark, protested outside a United Nations climate change conference in November. A new report finds that nine members of a coalition of 10 NGOs that lobbies the EU on environmental issues also receive EU funding.

The EU has been funding powerful green groups in Brussels to the tune of hundreds of thousands of Euros every year – only for these groups to go and lobby the EU for more money and influence.

According to a report published today by International Policy Network, the Directorate-General for the Environment – the European Commission unit that deals with environment affairs - has handed out over €66 million in core funding to green NGOs. The IPN report focuses on the Green 10 – a coalition of NGOs that pushes environmental issues at the EU-level. All the usual suspects are here - Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF-Europe, and other more EU-focused groups like the European Environmental Bureau and Climate Action Network Europe.

Nine out of the Green 10 receive funding from DG Environment. Eight of them depend on it for 33% or more of their funding - and five of them for more than 50%.

Over the years, EU funding to the Green 10 – and to environmental NGOs in general – has increased drastically: from just over €2 million in 1998 to nearly €9 million in 2009. Friends of the Earth Europe saw its funding increase by 325%, while Birdlife Europe’s funding increased by an astounding 900% over the same period.

But all of this funding hasn’t quite been enough for NGOs – they’ve consistently lobbied the EU for more money and influence. The Green 10 made several grabs for the EU’s Cohesion budget, which represents €350 billion, about one-third of the EU’s 2007-2013 budget. The Green 10’s demands were self-serving in the extreme – they wanted an environmental NGO involved in every project committee, the reimbursement of expenses, and training and capacity building. They failed to get their way but they are already lobbying in view of the 2014-2020 budget.

The EU claims that it needs to fund NGOs – and green groups in particular – to balance out the lobbying of big business, trade unions and consumer groups. But they’re only funding the largest green NGOs, and crowding out smaller, more local environmental groups. In fact, these large green groups are far from being representative of either the environmental movement, or of Europe’s citizens in general. In trying to balance the influence of self-interested corporate lobbyists, the EU has managed to line the pockets of self-interested green lobbyists. Meanwhile, the views of the taxpayers who fund this merry-go-round are utterly irrelevant.

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