Monday, December 5, 2016

Is Europe run jointly by its technocrats and CEOs?

European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) meeting Merkel, Hollande and Juncker.
In the previous post I said that to get an idea of the world we are living in, it is helpful to look at the world economy and its composing parts, i.e. countries and companies. But, in terms of policy making, the distinction between countries and companies is a bit artificial. Is, for instance, Europe not run jointly by technocrats and its major multinationals such as Nestlé, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Repsol, Philips, BP, Vodafone, BASF, AkzoNobel, Heineken, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Bayer, ThyssenKrupp, and Maersk?

All multinationals mentioned, except Maersk, are currently member of the powerful business lobby group European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT). Observers say that ERT was the major force behind the creation of the euro and the attempt to get TTIP adopted.

On its website the ERT says it is "a forum bringing together around 50 Chief Executives and Chairmen of major multinational companies of European parentage covering a wide range of industrial and technological sectors.  Companies of ERT Members are widely situated across Europe, with combined revenues exceeding € 2,135 billion, sustaining around 6.8 million jobs in the region. They invest more than € 55 billion annually in R&D, largely in Europe."

According to the Dutch version of Wikipedia, the ERT can be considered as one of the main architects of the great treaties of the European Union [1] since 1985, and policy decisions such as the EU enlargement, the introduction of the euro, pan-European connections such as Eurotunnel and the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, [2] the Lisbon Strategy [3] or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP. [4]

The English version of Wikipedia says that "The political agenda of the EC [EU] has to a large extent been dominated by the ERT......While the approximately 5000 lobbyists working in Brussels might occasionally succeed in changing details in directives, the ERT has in many cases been setting the agenda for and deciding the content of EC [EU] proposals."[3] quoting Keith Richardson's study Big Business and the European Agenda (2000), The Sussex European Institute, p.30.

Other European companies setting the policies of governments include big bankers. Insiders once told me that Angela Merkel followed the advice of Josef Ackermann when he was still the CEO of Deutsche Bank. An article in the NYT confirms Ackermann's influence on Merkel, Deutsche Bank's Chief Casts a Long Shadow in Europe.

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