In the EU, the IT industry is the largest lobbying player. With annual spending of 97 million euros, it ranks ahead of such influential industries as pharmaceuticals, finance and chemicals. The data comes from a study by the Lobby Control organization and the Corporate Europe Observatory.
612 organizations active
According to the study, 612 companies, associations and federations from the IT sector are involved in influencing policy in this area in the EU. About one-fifth of the organizations are said to be from the United States. By contrast, less than one percent are based in China and Hong Kong. The picture is quite different, however, if we look at the actors working within the individual companies or associations: The Chinese company Huawei, which is repeatedly suspected of conducting espionage for China, is the best-positioned company in terms of personnel, with nineteen lobbyists. Facebook is in second place with fourteen employees. Google ranks tenth with its 5.5 lobbying positions.
Looking at the financial resources used, the picture is different again: Here, Google tops the list with payments of six million euros annually. It is followed by Facebook with 5.5 million euros, Microsoft with 5.25, Apple with 3.5 and Huawei with 3 million euros.
174 meetings with EU Commission since December 2019
The money flows mainly in meetings with the EU Commission: since December 2019, there have been 174 of them – alone by the six largest companies in the industry. Google had the most meetings, here it came to 46 meetings. Microsoft and Facebook follow with 40 meetings each. Amazon had twenty meetings with the EU Commission, while Apple and Huawei each had fourteen.
The fact that IT companies must be understood as important players is also evident from the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, which were presented by the EU Commission at the end of 2020: There have been 271 meetings on these laws since then, 202 of which were attended by companies or their industry associations. By contrast, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and consumer associations, which unlike those do not pursue their own business interests, met with the EU Commission only 52 times for this reason.
Stronger control demanded
The two organizations that published the study also and above all want to use it to criticize the EU and call for stronger control in the lobbying sector. For example, they are pushing for lobby transparency without back doors and for the transfer of former EU officials to lobby positions to be prevented. Both organizations are also pushing for stronger regulation of the IT industry and for limits on its power.