EU Influence: Ukraine’s Russian doll lobbying — Cancer spat spreads — Qatar flight mode

EU Influence: Ukraine’s Russian doll lobbying — Cancer spat spreads — Qatar flight mode
Опубликовано: Thursday, 02 March 2023 21:07

A weekly newsletter on campaigning, lobbying and political influence in the EU.


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HOWDY. Welcome to your first March edition of EU Influence, where we’re gazing at this unusual winter sunlight and wondering why Brussels tolerates so much murk. It seems like every other day, someone tells us, “Oh, you should look into [broad category of thing], there’s tons of sketchy behavior there.” But when we ask for specific examples, although they say they know of some, they don’t want to share specifics. Or take, for example, our reporting (revisited below) on a cancer patients’ group. As a former health reporter in the bubble, I was hearing grumbling about this group for years before I had a chance to investigate. But people just shrugged it off.

Most of the readers of this newsletter are probably supporters of the European project. And maybe you’re also frustrated that Brussels gets such a bad rap. So my question for you would be: Why do y’all put up with this crap?


CATCHING UP WITH … UBTA’S DMYTRO LOS: Kyiv’s top industry lobbyist is a man on the move. We caught up with Dmytro Los, head of the Ukrainian Business and Trade Association, on the road between Brussels and Berlin Monday evening, to learn how his job has changed — and how it hasn’t — since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded his country.

TOP ASKS: Los said his main messages to Brussels have stayed pretty consistent over the last year —

Single market access: “There’s no reason to be afraid of Ukrainian producers,” Los said. The pitch to support Ukrainian exporters — especially from the agriculture sector — got a boost from the markets themselves over the past year, Los said. He pointed to shortages of sunflower oil and flour when Ukrainian supplies couldn’t get out.

Ukrainian priorities: EU funding targets often don’t address the immediate needs of Ukrainians. “We’re financing ecology but we’re not financing transportation … or junction points, or subsidizing insurance,” Los said. To fix this, he’s trying to get Ukrainians better integrated into the decision-making system. “A lot of think tanks and good universities with good names, they know how to work in Europe,” he added. “But they don’t understand specifically Ukraine.”

Overcoming stigma: Los acknowledged that the reluctance to let Ukrainian players take the lead has a historical basis.”There are a lot of bad memories of Ukraine in the 90s. It was definitely not the best place to [do] business,” he said.

EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE: Cleaning up Ukraine’s corruption problem will be key to EU membership and market access. But the war is setting those efforts back. “The main driver of all the reforms in Ukraine was business,” Los said. Now, those businesses are slashing their budgets, and “people are thinking about survival.”

Side-hustles pay the bills: Those budgets are hitting UBTA membership fees. That means the association has to look elsewhere to pay its 20-strong staff, many of whom have to take on second jobs to support themselves. “Now it’s funny, because companies from other parts of the world are asking us for support inside Ukraine,” Los said. But that means less time to devote to Ukrainian businesses.

RUSSIAN DOLL LOBBYING: Interlocking interests means lobbying in the EU often involves lobbying Brussels behalf of member state capitals. For example, Los said, UBTA wanted the Poles to provide 20 new veterinary inspectors at their shared border. Warsaw was open to doing it — but it needed more EU funding. So that meant Los was off to Brussels to ask for more money for Poland.

Bottom line conclusion, one year later: “I need cloning,” Los said. “You need to be in lots of different places at once.”



PARLIAMENT PRAISE: We’re bringing you the above graphic, which comes from the European Ombudsman’s 2021 report, just as a resolution from the Parliament’s Petitions Committee applauding Emily O’Reilly’s work advances to the plenary. The panel’s MEPs called on the Ombudsman to dig deep into how EU funds are spent, “especially in the context of Next Generation EU,” the recovery plan.

Separately: If the European Citizens Initiative is part of your advocacy strategy, the resolution is also worth a close read.

REVOLVING-DOOR JAM: Cesira D’Aniello stepped down as the Ombudsman’s secretary general in August, and following the rules for ex-EU officials (in the case, she was officially employed by the Council), she asked for permission to take on some new gigs. Specifically, she hoped to deliver some lectures at the College of Europe and to join the board of Transparency International EU starting in June.

The verdict: O’Reilly, who has made revolving doors a signature issue, put out a public statement with her verdict: D’Aniello is cleared to take the unpaid position. But there’s a little catch: Until September 2024, D’Aniello “should not take part in any activity concerning any matter arising between the European Ombudsman and TI EU, including lobbying or advocacy vis-a-vis staff of the Ombudsman.”

Revolving in: As we reported a few weeks ago, O’Reilly recently hired Carl Dolan, a former Transparency International chief, as a senior adviser.


INVESTIGATION INTO QATAR FLIGHTS: Greens MEPs are calling on the Commission to open an internal investigation into gifts offered by lobbyists to officials, following revelations by POLITICO that the institution’s top transport official flew for free several times with Qatar Airways while his team negotiated an air transport agreement with Doha. The Qatari government paid for a return business flight for DG MOVE’s Director General Henrik Hololei in 2017 while the negotiations were live, with Hololei also accepting free flights from organizations linked to the state airline as the deal was being struck.

Further scrutiny: Daniel Freund, a German MEP, said the case should be turned over to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, or the bloc’s OLAF anti-fraud office. “I don’t understand why anyone in the Commission is accepting free flights paid for by lobby organizations. I just don’t see how that is in line with the rules,” he said in a phone call with my colleague Mari Eccles. Separately, Irish MEP Ciarán Cuffe, who also sits on TRAN, said he would be “seeking full details from the European Commission of free flights or other benefits given to staff working on aviation deals.”


TIKTOK TAKE: Amid news that the EU institutions are banning TikTok, citing concerns of snooping by Beijing, we checked in with Brussels’ most prominent lobbyist on the video platform (admittedly, not much competition), auto lobbyist Connor Allen. He’s been using the platform to try to explain EU lawmaking — and unsurprisingly, he’s not impressed with the new policy.

“Quite sad. Understand that there’s cybersecurity issues but if desk officers are walking around with sensitive documents on their personal phones, the issue doesn’t go away,” he told EU Influence over WhatsApp. “Seems like it’s yet another opportunity to fail to connect to the young. Also quite schizophrenic, half a million on a party in the metaverse but it’s ‘burn the witch’ when it comes to tiktok.”


‘WAR AMONG CANCER STAKEHOLDERS’: The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) is under increasing pressure following POLITICO’s reporting about complaints from collaborators and its staffing woes for projects that receive Commission funding. One thing everyone seems to agree on: the credibility hit won’t likely be limited to this one group.

Oncologists consider cutting ties: Amid “serious concerns,” the European Cancer Organisation (ECO, which convenes oncology professionals and patients) is considering kicking the ECPC out of its patients advisory committee, the group said in a statement to my colleague Carlo Martuscelli. A final decision will be made at its next board meeting on March 22.

— ECPC’s reply: An email to EU Influence from ECPC President Francesco de Lorenzo and Board Secretary George Kapetanakis said the ECPC had received a letter from ECO claiming that Evgenia Aleksandrova, ECPC’s rep to the ECO patient advisory committee, hadn’t been showing up to meetings. But ECPC contends that she had never been invited. The move, the ECPC statement said, amounts to a “a pretext, for an undue war among cancer stakeholders that at the end damages both and more generally, the cancer patient movement.”

WECAN cancels EPCP: On Monday, another cancer patient group, the Working Group of Cancer Patient Advocacy Networks (WECAN), put out a statement saying members are “deeply concerned about the alleged irregularities” reported by POLITICO and “as also previously experienced by patient organisations.”

The WECAN statement adds, “Malpractice by one organisation can impact the credibility of the whole patient community and its long-standing commitment to trusted and reliable partnerships.”

— More from WECAN: EU Influence asked for more details about the statement, including whether WECAN had been in competition with ECPC for grants. The reply from the WECAN coordination team acknowledged a potential perception that WECAN could be in competition with ECPC, but also noted that members have been involved in EU research projects that include the ECPC, and “are concerned about the impact on patients and project deliverables.”

— ECPC’s reply: “WECAN seem not to realize the far reaching implications of the war declared among cancer patient organizations,” write De Lorenzo and Kapetanakis. “Large institutional stakeholders will wonder what is ‘all this jazz’ around cancer policy and cancer research, who is to trust and who is not.”

WHERE DOES THE COMMISSION STAND? “To date, the evidence shows that no doubts have been advanced either by the coordinators of the dozens of projects in which ECPC is a partner or by the European Commission,” write De Lorenzo and Kapetanakis.

Commission reply: A Commission spokesperson declined to answer POLITICO’s questions specifically about the ECPC grants. In an email, the spokesperson offered a boilerplate description of the Commission’s grant-making and auditing process. “The Commission checks that the beneficiaries correctly implement the project as described in the grant agreement,” the spokesperson said.



— The consulting agency Teneo is opening an office in Amsterdam.

Giacomo Valfré has been promoted to associate at Rud Pedersen Public Affairs.


Lorenzo Vella will be the Commission’s new head of representation in Malta. He is currently the permanent representative of Malta to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

Claudia Colla will be the new head of the Commission’s regional office in Milan, Italy, via DG GROW.


Flaminia Macchia, the former chief of Rare Diseases International, is now senior global patient partnership director at Roche.

Eleana Balabani has joined Edelman Brussels’ health and well-being public affairs team as a program manager, via Harwood Levitt Consulting.

Alexandru Rusu has been promoted to chief of staff for policy, advocacy, and global operations at Merck Healthcare.


Julia Mozer, a Twitter refugee, joined Google as a government affairs and public policy manager for EU, focusing on content.

Timothée Tierny is now Samsung Electronics’ senior sustainability manager, via Orgalim.

Andrea Tognoni, previously of SEC Newgate EU, is the new head of EU affairs for 5Rights Foundation, which seeks to protect kids in the digital space.

THANKS TO: Eddy Wax, Mari Eccles, Carlo Martuscelli and Stuart Lau; visual producer Giovanna Coi, web producer Ellen Boonen and my editor Sonya Diehn.

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