EU Commissioner and former Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan defends meetings with local lobby groups
EU Commissioner and former Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan has defended the number of meetings he has held with local lobby groups.
The former minister has been named among a handful of EU commissioners who had a “disproportionately large” number of meetings with lobbyists and business groups from their home countries, according to a group that highlights the influence of lobbying on EU policymaking.
According to a new report – titled Captured States: When EU Governments are a Channel for Corporate Interests – published by the research and campaign body Corporate Europe Observatory, at least 29 of the 102 meetings held by Mr Hogan with corporate lobbyists since being appointed agriculture commissioner in late 2014 involved Irish business interests.
Some had no links to agriculture. Mr Hogan met Ryanair to discuss “aviation issues”, and Google to discuss “enterprise” and “agri issues”. His meetings with Google coincided with its lobbying efforts over the commission’s proposal to reform the EU Copyright Directive.
The report found that Irish interests accounted for half of Mr Hogan’s top 10 “most-met” lobbyists. The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) accounted for seven meetings; the business organisation IBEC and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association held four; and the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society got three meetings with Commissioner Hogan.
One meeting between Mr Hogan and IBEC concerned the growth of the “Irish spirits” industry. He also met Kilkenny-based food giant Glanbia and ABP Food Group, a beef firm owned by Larry Goodman. Officials from Hogan’s office also held separate meetings with lobbyists.
Report co-author Vicky Cann said EU commissioners should take care to avoid being seen as a channel of national corporate influence.
However, a spokesperson for Commissioner Hogan, who has indicated a desire to serve a second term as an EU commissioner, said it was not surprising that he received representations on a wide range of EU-related issues from various sources in Ireland.
“Since the Brexit referendum, there is understandable concern throughout Irish society, and particularly among the business community, about the consequences of Brexit, which may have contributed to the high number of representations from Ireland,” the spokesperson told The Sunday Times.
“Commissioner Hogan believes strongly in the value of engaging with government, business and civic society.
“He and his team have adopted a policy of being accessible to various interest groups, particularly in relation to his portfolio of agriculture and rural development, not alone from Ireland, but right across the EU.”