Monthly Archives: Δεκέμβριος 2018

The ‘innovation principle’ trap | Corporate Europe Observatory

The ‘innovation principle’ trap

Industries behind risky products push for backdoor to bypass EU safety rules

A seemingly innocent concept, the “innovation principle” has been invented by some of the dirtiest industries in Europe. They have carefully and strategically inserted it into the EU system, where it could have a significant impact on the shaping of new EU legislation or policies, and those under revision.

A short summary briefing on the risks of the ‘innovation principle’ is available here.

This “principle” is the product of the European Risk Forum (ERF), a lobby platform for chemical, tobacco and fossil fuel corporations – the risky industries, which are invariably subject to health and environmental regulation. The biggest joint interest of these dirty industries is to keep their products on the market with the least possible restrictions and regulation. Using this “principle” these industries aim to ensure that “whenever legislation is under consideration its impact on innovation should be assessed and addressed”.

Documents released to Corporate Europe Observatory under Freedom of Information laws show that these industries are trying to use this principle to undermine EU laws on chemicals, novel foods, pesticides, nano-products and pharmaceuticals, amongst others, as well as legal principles of environmental and human health protection which are enshrined in the EU Treaty. The ERF, which is dominated by the chemical industry, has explicitly called for this principle to be invoked to make REACH, the EU chemicals legislation, more business-friendly. In addition, the concept is an attack on the Precautionary Principle by those who seek deregulation, displaying a cavalier attitude towards environmental hazards.

By calling it a “principle”, the impression is created that the concept has a legal basis of some kind. This is not the case. In fact the so-called “innovation principle” is an industry invention, and in no way comparable to legal principles enshrined in the EU Treaty, such as the precautionary principle, or the polluter-pays principle. As one lawyer observed, the ”innovation principle” is simply “a lobby product formulated by a think tank and promoted mainly by the companies that finance the think tank.»

The creation of the “innovation principle” opens up new opportunities for corporations to use the impact assessment phase, which precedes the drafting of new or revised rules, to their advantage by claiming harm to innovation. Such a claim is easy to make when ‘innovation’ is not defined. While the ERF nowadays makes political statements that the Precautionary Principle is complementary and not in contradiction with the “innovation principle”, in the past they have said that the Precautionary Principle is “inconsistent with scientific approaches to policymaking and does not sufficiently take account of economic efficiency”.1

A rapid rise in the EU system

The “innovation principle” has made its way into the EU system through strong pressure from corporate lobby groups. At one of the many lobby events to push it, the ERF summed up its achievements thus: “In 2013, the European Risk Forum, with the support of CEOs from twenty-two of the world’s largest corporate investors in innovation, launched the Innovation Principle (IP). Actively supported by BussinessEurope and the European Roundtable of Industrialists, endorsed by the European Council and supported by successive EU presidencies, it has achieved significant prominence within the EU institutions(emphasis added).

From its first official EU mention in a Commission document in 2015, the “innovation principle” was catapulted into Competitiveness Council conclusions under the Dutch Presidency in 2016. Professor Geert van Calster of the Catholic University of Leuven said in an interview with Dutch investigative media platform Follow the Money that he believed the innovation principle could undermine the precautionary principle. In his view, industry’s strategy was to make the “innovation principle” appear to be a given, a fait accompli. “The more documents you can get it included in, the more you can convince people that it really is a principle”, he said.

Continuing its rapid rise, the concept has recently been included for the first time in an EU legal text to be voted on by the European Parliament: the draft Horizon Europe regulation and programme. Horizon Europe lays out the rules for the EU’s research and innovation programme, which will succeed Horizon 2020.The adoption of the principle in Horizon Europe would risk favouring even more EU funds being spent on industry R&D, whereas civil society has demanded that this money (working budget: 100 billion euros from 2021to 2027, the third largest EU budget) fund research projects tackling broader societal needs.

Who is the European Risk Forum?

Seated a stone’s throw from the Commission and Council headquarters in Brussels, at Rue de la Loi 227, the ERF is a corporate lobby platform that calls itself a “non-for-profit think tank” that strives for “excellence in regulatory risk management”. Not suprisingly, its members consist of the most heavily regulated industries, whose products are harmful to human health or the environment: tobacco, chemicals, fossil fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc.

The small group of ERF members are all multinational corporations from these risky sectors: tobacco (BAT, Philip Morris), oil (Chevron), chemicals and pesticides (Dow, Bayer/Monsanto and BASF) as well as business lobby associations including producers of chemicals (CEFIC and its German counterpart VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie)), veterinary pharma (Animal Health Europe), metals (the Nickel Institute), oil (Fuels Europe) and PlasticsEurope. Other sectors also join its meetings from time to time, such as the food industry (including Danone, Unilever and FoodDrinkEurope).

However in September 2018, just after Corporate Europe Observatory submitted Freedom of Information requests to the European Commission, the ERF quietly published a vastly changed membership list on its website: the tobacco companies were removed, and seven new members appear to have joined, some representing new sectors like biotech (EuropaBio) and the perfume industry (IFRA, the International Fragrance Association). Tobacco lobbying is nowadays considered so evidently perverse that the industry’s interaction with decision makers has become restricted, if not banned, by the UN WHO anti-tobacco agreement which the EU is a signatory to. [See box ‘The tobacco connection’]

On its website, the European Risk Forum claims to offer a “unique set of benefits” to its members, including the opportunity to “contribute to shaping the rules and procedures used by the EU’s institutions to determine how regulatory decisions are made”, as well as regular involvement “in formal and informal dialogue with senior officials and experts who work in EU institutions”.

The ERF’s activities typically focus on issues that are not sector-specific, ie that are of interest to all these heavily regulated industries. These include, for instance, TTIP and regulatory cooperation, impact assessments, and issues like “societal acceptance of new technologies and associated hazards” or “demand stigmatisation”.

The ERF explains its relevance on these transversal issues thus: it “provides valuable long-term policy context for short-term sector-specific advocacy campaigns. For example, advocacy arguments based on the need for regulators to adhere to ‘horizontal’ procedural standards and rules, can often form a valuable part of a wider issue-based campaign.” Arguing for an impact assessment approach based on the “innovation principle” would be a case in point.

In the past however, the ERF has been found to support specific lobby campaigns. Le Monde revealed in 2016 that the ERF provided funding support for a small group of industry-linked scientists like Daniel Dietrich and Alan Boobis, who helped the chemical industry to undermine strong EU action against hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The European Risk Forum is ‘hosted’ by a lobby firm called Foresight International Policy and Regulatory Advisers (FIPRA), which was founded in 2000. Dirk Hudig is FIPRA International Partner and has been part of the firm since 2001; he is also, simultaneously, the Chair of the European Risk Forum. Hudig worked previously as a lobbyist for the chemical industry and as Secretary General of UNICE (now BusinessEurope). The ERF officially employs only one staff member, whose desk is located in the FIPRA offices.

However, the ERF is not listed as a client of FIPRA. Hudig explained to Corporate Europe Observatory that there is no financial connection between the two. In the EU Transparency Register, the ERF claims to spend a maximum of 100,000 euro on lobbying. However, considering the number of lobbying activities undertaken by the ERF, the real figure must be much higher, meaning that the balance of the costs are likely covered by its individual members. After a complaint was filed by Corporate Europe Observatory to the EU Transparency Register in September 2018, FIPRA updated its submission to the Register, declaring itself a member of ERF, and adding that “Fipra offers pro-bono support to the ERF”.

The tobacco connection

The ERF was originally set up as a working group of a well-known think tank, the European Policy Centre (EPC), in the late ‘90s and was called the EPC Risk Forum. Tobacco companies like British American Tobacco (BAT) took part from the beginning. Katherine E Smith et al2 even concluded that BAT “set up” the Risk Forum. From the outset, the EPC Risk Forum, and later the ERF, have focused on business-friendly impact assessment models as a way to help block regulation. Smith et al explain that “NGOs were specifically excluded from this Forum, resulting in the Forum being asked to leave the EPC in 2007”. This is when the European Risk Forum was founded as an independent lobby group.

When asked why the tobacco companies were suddenly removed from ERF membership, Mr Hudig did not provide an explanation. In an email to Corporate Europe Observatory he wrote that the tobacco companies “have been long standing and valued participants, and have, as all other actors, the right to discuss risk and risk reduction. They were however not involved in the Innovation Principle Task Force, and as a result were not involved in launching or promoting the initiative. Earlier this year the tobacco members volunteered to withdraw membership of the ERF and the work of the think tank continues.”

However, in at least one meeting on the “innovation principle” with DG Research in 2017, BAT is listed as a participant.

Ceci n’est pas un principe…

The ERF launched the “innovation principle” in 2013, also the year when TTIP negotiations were launched. The ERF argued that the “innovation principle” should be applied to ensure that “whenever policy or regulatory decisions are under consideration the impact on innovation should be assessed and addressed”.

The concept was squarely placed in the field of the EU’s so-called “Better Regulation” agenda, which is often understood to be the place where regulations that are seen as burdensome by industry can get blocked, revised or otherwise derailed.

But what sort of “principle” is it? It is definitely not a legal principle. As Oscar Alarik, a lawyer at the Swedish Society for the Conservation of Nature explains: «Usually important principles in European law will not be inserted in legal texts until they are well covered in international law, preceded by important declarations in international meetings in the UN context and covered in length in legal academic reports and debate. Another important way that EU legal principles are formulated is in the development of European Court of Justice court law.

The ”innovation principle” lacks all this background, it is simply a lobby product formulated by a think tank and promoted mainly by the companies that finance the think tank.»
– Oscar Alarik, lawyer

‘Innovation’ has not been defined either. A 2017 paper by academics from the Catholic University of Leuven provides critical comments on the conception of the “innovation principle”. In their opinion, “the real challenge with the innovation principle, as devised by the ERF, is that it is not a qualified principle – focusing as it does exclusively on jobs, growth and competitiveness. This is out of sync and out of balance with EU primary and secondary law, which safeguards consumers and environmental needs alongside the need to foster jobs and growth.”

Indeed, through an “innovation impact assessment,” any type of new or revised legislation or other types of policies, could potentially be affected. In lobby documents obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory, industry has spelt out to decisionmakers what their real target is when promoting this principle: EU legislation on chemicals (REACH), pesticides, novel foods, nano-products and pharmaceuticals, amongst others.

For instance on 10 March 2015, the ERF had a meeting with DG Research, in which they complained that “some legislation e.g. REACH, deliberately ‘stigmatises’ certain product groups. This kind of legislation should trigger the Innovation Principle since it can be a major barrier to innovation.” On another occasion, Tony Bastcok, Vice-President of chemical lobby group CEFIC called REACH “a monster [that] continues to devour innovation in Europe”!

Precautionary Principle: beneficial for society and innovation

A coalition of UK environmental organisations observed that “opponents to the Precautionary Principle are trying to weaken it in three ways: by misrepresenting its scientific credentials, by redefining its ‘proportionate’ application and by adopting a principle of ‘innovation’ to counter it.”3

The Precautionary Principle is a legal principle which is well established in EU and international environmental law4. As many examples from the two Late lessons, early warnings reports published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) have shown, significant damage could have been prevented with issues like asbestos and DDT if a more precautionary approach had been followed.

Lobby documents obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory reveal that industry had a hard time actually proving to the Commission that innovation is hindered by regulation, or by the Precautionary Principle. On the contrary, they are in fact good for innovation in the public interest. For instance, a 2013 study by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) titled ‘Driving Innovation’, shows how stricter laws can help bring safer chemicals to the market. The phase-out of ozone-depleting substances illustrated how progressively stricter rules at the global level led to the development of safer alternatives

The Precautionary Principle is actually not applied enough. Steffen Foss Hansen, of the Technical University of Denmark, argues that in EU chemical regulation under REACH the Precautionary Principle is systematically ignored. “The European Commission seems to be deliberately ignoring scientific uncertainty and the irreversible harm that some chemicals might cause”, he told Corporate Europe Observatory, adding that REACH is only effective for hazardous chemicals that are proven to be highly toxic, where there is thus no need to invoke the Precautionary Principle. It is these dangerous chemicals that ERF members are trying to keep on the market.

Andy Stirling of the STEPS Centre at the University of Sussex commented: «Although they disagree about much, every kind of study agrees innovation is always a branching evolutionary process, not a one-track race. It is not just about ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘forward’ or ‘back’, but ‘which way?’, ‘who says?’, and ‘why?’ So precaution is not stopping any particular innovation – but about helping society more deliberately and rationally to steer innovation in general. Without it, innovation is simply steered by the most powerful interest – that happen to be able to capture the language of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for their own favoured pathways. To see the precautionary principle simply to be about ‘stopping’ or ‘slowing’ innovation is to succumb to the blinkered view of incumbent interests who seek to dominate innovation debates with their own partisan attachment to a single particular ‘way forward’. Both innovation and precaution demand richer and more rational debates than this”.

How to insert a business-friendly ‘principle’ into the EU system in just a few steps

In October 2013, just a few months after the TTIP negotiations beween the EU and the US commenced, twelve CEOs of multinational companies signed a letter to the presidents of the three EU institutions, expressing their deep concern about “the negative impact of recent developments in risk management and regulatory policy on the innovation environment in Europe”.

This was followed by another letter from the ERF, signed by 22 CEOs of multinationals in November 2014 to the freshly installed Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, demanding the adoption of the “innovation principle”. They wrote: “Your strong political leadership is required for innovation to thrive in Europe, combined with concrete steps, including positioning the Innovation Principle as an overarching priority for the new Commission’s mandate and work programme.” This letter was also signed by CEOs from companies that are not members of the ERF, including Novartis, DSM, Statoil and Yara.

On 22 June 2015 a joint position was published by the European Risk Forum, the European Roundtable of Industrialists, and overarching business lobby group BusinessEurope. The framing of the paper is clear: “The EU is lagging behind major competitors in its ability to invest in research and turn these investments into marketable products and services.”

Therefore, the paper states that “the European business community believes that EU institutions now need to incorporate the Innovation Principle as an integral component of the policy-making process.” This would mean that EU policy and legislative initiatives should be “systematically evaluated against an innovation checklist”, and that better access should be granted to stakeholders through routine consultations during the shaping of new rules.

On the very same day, 22 June, Research Commissioner Moedas gave a speech in which he wholeheartedly endorsed the “innovation principle” when he asked: “How do we make sure that regulation is based on an innovation principle as well as a precautionary principle?

DG Research was quick to insert the “innovation principle” into a Staff Working Document just a few months later.5 The only source mentioned for it, in a footnote, is the joint position paper by the three business lobby groups. In an email from an ERF lobbyist to DG Research, the Commission was congratulated for its “pioneering contribution”.

This was music to the ears of the Dutch Permanent Representation in Brussels, who were preparing for the Dutch Presidency of the EU (January – June 2016), and wanted to make innovation a central theme in their Presidency. Following Freedom of Information requests, the Dutch permanent representation offered to meet with Corporate Europe Observatory, and prepared a reconstruction on paper for Corporate Europe Observatory documenting the process through which the “innovation principle” was incorporated into the Council conclusions.

During the meeting, a Dutch official from the Permanent Representation explained that fostering innovation was a top priority for the Dutch Presidency. He stressed the importance of innovation for growth and jobs as well as in dealing with societal challenges and realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The “innovation principle” was seen as a tool to that end and a close cooperation with ERF evolved. There was no apparent concern about the motives of the ERF to promote it, nor were there attempts to qualify the «innovation principle» as promoting the SDGs.

In November 2015 the three lobby groups BusinessEurope, the ERF and the ERT met with the Dutch Permanent Representation and mentioned the “innovation principle”. It was then decided to organise a joint conference at the permanent representation’s offices, titled ‘A Better Framework for Innovation’. This conference took place on 26 January 2016, with high-level speakers including Research Commissioner Moedas. Both the Commissioner and the Heads of cabinet were invited to a pre-conference dinner the evening before, to “bring together senior executives of supporting companies to debate some of the key policy issues around a single table in a more informal setting.”

At the business conference on 26 January, Commissioner Moedas stated that “REFIT is only part of the answer to this principle as originally proposed by Business Europe. My suggestion is the following: Let’s work on a broader definition of the innovation principle to include the creation of an environment favourable to initiative by all actors in the innovation eco-system”.

Another Dutchman in the Brussels’ bubble, Director-General of Research at the Commission Robert Jan Smits, was closely involved in the push for the “innovation principle” under the Dutch Presidency. In the run up to their presidency, according to an interview with Follow the Money, he regularly brainstormed with the Dutch Secretary of State for Education at the time, Sander Dekker. Dekker was very interested in the “innovation principle”, so “it was a good occasion to embed the principle. Thanks to Sander we managed to put it onto the political agenda”.

Upon the announcement of his departure from the European Commission, Smits stressed in an interview with Nature in February 2018 that one of his achievements was to have “promoted the concept of the ‘innovation principle’ to stand alongside the precautionary principle as an aid to risk assessment”. According to him, this meant that “all future Commission policies must balance the requirement for the EU to innovate against the need for it to protect citizens from possible dangers”.

Documents obtained by Corporate Europe Observatory show that throughout the Dutch Presidency an intense level of cooperation was maintained with business lobby groups. For example, on 27 January 2016, at an informal Council meeting in Amsterdam, along with companies like PepsiCo, the Director General of BusinessEurope Marcus Beyrer was invited to provide feedback from the joint conference held days earlier in Brussels. Subsequently, on 3 March 2016, Dutch prime minister Rutte was a guest speaker at the annual BusinessEurope event, where he praised the “innovation principle”.

After it became clear at a Council Working Group on 1 April that member states were not very familiar with the concept of the “innovation principle”, the lobby groups organised a breakfast event on 7 April for attachés. The Dutch permanent representation was invited to highlight the goals for the draft Council Conclusions at this breakfast event. In their view this event was “instrumental” in providing clarification to officials from member states.

At the May 26-27 Competitiveness Council meeting, the “innovation principle” was adopted in the Council conclusions – a breakthrough in its official recognition. There was debate between certain countries on whether to include wording to clarify that the call for the “innovation principle” did not undermine the authority of the Precautionary Principle, with some opposing such wording.

According to the Dutch permanent representation, mentioning the Precautionary Principle in the main text alongside the “innovation principle”, would have actually devalued the first. Therefore the solution found was a peculiar footnote added to the Council conclusions, stating: “the Council recalls the Precautionary Principle”.

Throughout this period, however, the Dutch Parliament was kept fully in the dark about the Dutch government’s plans to support an “innovation principle” and were presented with a fait accompli when the Dutch Minister sent them a letter after the Council conclusions including the so-called principle had been adopted.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), IndustriAll Europe and UNI Europa, alliances of European trade unions, however, expressed serious concerns about the “innovation principle”, warning that it “could be used as a torpedo to sink any regulation before it even reaches the democratic debate” and could further weaken the precautionary principle.

Ulrich Eckelmann, General Secretary of IndustriAll Europe commented: “Innovation is not a reason to prevent or delay legislation. Society has discovered to its cost that innovation is not automatically good because it is new. Why not a quality jobs principle, or a social justice principle, or an equality principle? They really are good principles, unlike innovation.”

A reference to the industry-invented “principle” was repeated in Council conclusions under the next EU presidencies(such as Malta in 2017 and Austria in 2018). The Malta and Bulgaria Presidencies which followed the Dutch one co-organised events with the European Risk Forum, another demonstration of continued privileged access.

On 20 June 2017, an ERF event was held “under the patronage of the Maltese Presidency”. In an invitation email to a high-level DG Reseach official, the ERF wrote that “the problems of junk science” were a motivation to hold the event. This is an old trick. Decades ago, the tobacco industry began to call independent science which showed the harm caused by their products “junk science”, and referred to its own sponsored studies as “sound science”; this kind of language has caught on, and is now used by other industries in the business of producing risky products, such as the pesticides industry.

On 20 February 2018, an ERF event was held “with the support of Bulgarian Presidency of the EU and SAPEA”. SAPEA stands for Science for Policy by European Academies, and five European academy networks are attached to it. It is highly surprising, to say the least, that European academies would associate themselves with a lobby group for the chemical and tobacco industries.

Fabricating a legal basis for the “innovation principle”

Shortly after the Competitiveness Council came to its conclusions, the Commission’s in-house think tank, the European Political Strategy Center (EPSC), published a Strategic Note on the “innovation principle”. This Note, published in June 2016 and titled ‘Towards an Innovation Principle Endorsed by Better Regulation’, uses almost exactly the same description of what the purported principle should entail as the ERF’s: “An innovation principle means ensuring that whenever policy is developed, the impact on innovation is fully assessed”. However, in the EPSC Strategic Note, there is no reference to the industry origin of the concept whatsoever.

Innovation principle: copied from industry and inserted into the EU system

European Risk Forum (2013) EPSC Strategic Note 2016 & DG Research Competitiveness Council conclusions May 2016
“whenever policy or regulatory decisions are under consideration, the impact on innovation should be fully assessed and addressed.” “Whenever policy is developed, the impact on innovation is fully assessed”. “When considering, developing or updating EU policy or regulatory measures [..] the impact on research and innovation should be taken into account.”

The Strategic Note lists several articles in the EU Treaty that mention innovation or that call for the promotion of technological advance, as well as to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which promotes the “freedom of sciences”. One could argue that these articles would actually make the “innovation principle” superfluous. But, according to the EPSC note, these references could provide the legal grounds for “an implicit Treaty-based innovation principle”.

The Note even goes so far as to suggest that the EU Treaty could at some point include an explicit Treaty-based “innovation principle”. The Strategic Note contains a list of “Treaty-based principles to be balanced with the Innovation Principle”. The list includes the promotion of consumer interests (Art 169 TFEU), a high level of human health (Art 35 CFR), environment protection (Art 11 TFEU), and of course, the Precautionary Principle.

How exactly the EPSC Strategic Note came about remains quite a mystery. EPSC told Corporate Europe Observatory that it does not possess a single document or email that mentions the “innovation principle”, apart from the Strategic Note itself. Questions from Corporate Europe Observatory as to how the Note’s apparent immaculate conception came about have remained unanswered. Nobody at EPSC was available to answer our questions since “the two colleagues who initiated the editorial process of this note have left the Commission several months ago”.6 In an interview with Follow the Money, Director-General for Research Robert Jan Smits revealed that the request to the EPSC for the Note came from DG Research.

Almost as an after-thought, the EPSC Strategic Note observes that the “innovation principle” will gain acceptance only when conceived in a comprehensive manner. “If it focuses exclusively on competitiveness, that is, on reducing costs to industry without considering social and environmental costs, it risks yielding less regulation instead of better regulation”. A nice political statement, but it is not at all clear how this will this be taken up in the implementation of the “innovation principle”.

A strong advocate for the “innovation principle” was also Commission President Juncker’s special adviser Robert Madelin, someone with a long career in the EU bureaucracy. He wrote a report for the EPSC on innovation, at the same time as the Strategic Note. Only three months later, Robert Madelin went through the revolving doors and joined lobby firm FIPRA, which runs the ERF, and is now its international chairman.

DG Research tried to encourage further discourse on the issue among academics, by issuing a research funding call titled ‘Taking stock of the application of the precautionary principle in Research & Innovation’. The framing of the problem in the call is telling: “the application of the precautionary principle has become controversial, with some stakeholders advocating an Innovation Principle”. The funding call asked consortia to help find “a balanced approach” between the two, and to “develop new tools or approaches” for both.

The implementation: an imaginary principle becomes operational

In February 2017 DG Research set up an internal, dedicated ‘Innovation Principle Task Force’, which set out to implement the “innovation principle”. They developed a so-called Research & Innovation Tool, tool #21 in the ‘Better Regulation Toolbox’, which was published in July 2017. When compared with the “innovation checklist” published by Business Europe, ERT and ERF in June 2015, it is clear that the Commission’s Research & Innovation Tool contains substantial overlap. For instance, both documents focus on the need to reduce the cost of compliance for industry (including the need to keep Member States from “gold-plating” EU legislation), stress the need for more flexibility in rules, propose to consider ‘sunset clauses’ on legislation, and advocate more consultation with “stakeholders” (ie, industry).

The DG Research 2018 Work Programme lists the screening of future policy and legislative initiatives “to identify those where the innovation principle could be implemented.”

Furthermore, attemps are also being made to introduce the concept at national level. Germany recently included it in its newly published Hightech Strategy. But two attemps to include it in national laws, in Germany and France, have failed.

The ERF keeps close tabs on this implementation phase; in November 2017 it organised yet another event, this time on the implementation of the “innovation principle”. In an email exchange with DG Research official Mr Metthey, the ERF invited him to share his “insights and reporting” on the steps the Commission had undertaken to make the “innovation principle” “operational”. At this meeting, a large number of chemical, pesticide and plastics lobbyists were present, as well as British American Tobacco (BAT), representatives of the Bulgarian, German and Dutch goverments, the Commission, and a group called Sense about Science.

At one point in this meeting, it was the turn of the pesticide industry to present on the challenges they face in regulation. Their focus was on the “incompatibility” of policies or regulations: those that promote the “innovation principle” on the one hand, and those that are “black-listing substances considered innovative (as per the nr of existing patents) or indispensable/useful” on the other. Evidently, it is old products like glyphosate-based herbicides that are seen as “indispensible” by its producers. So now, the so-called “innovation principle” comes to the rescue for those old and much-criticised products too.

Wake up call for the Parliament

The chemical, tobacco and fossil fuel industries, using the European Risk Forum, handed the EU institutions a business-friendly “innovation principle” on a silver platter. The European Commission and the Council adopted it wholesale, uncritically and without much regard for the consequences. A splendid example of corporate capture, an industry that is known for its risky products has created for itself another instrument to manipulate EU laws at a very early stage, through the impact assessment phase.

As evidenced in this report, the European Risk Forum and its allies have had a high level of privileged access to decision makers in this process. Even though the ERF removed the tobacco companies from its membership list once attention was drawn to it, the report shows how the tobacco industry can, despite being banned from lobbying, still exert influence via such platforms.

The European Parliament has the opportunity to reject the “innovation principle” in next week’s plenary session in Strasbourg, as it is mentioned twice in the draft Horizon Europe, the EU research budget and policy which the Parliament must approve. Members of the European Parliament should have been informed about the original inventors of the imaginary principle and their motivations, which have faded into the background as the EU institutions absorbed and reinforced it. They would be well advised to vote to reject the so-called “innovation principle”.


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Πηγή: The ‘innovation principle’ trap | Corporate Europe Observatory

Copyright Directive: how competing big business lobbies drowned out critical voices | Corporate Europe Observatory

Copyright Directive: how competing big business lobbies drowned out critical voices

The European Union is trying to make its copyright rules fit for the digital age – but the negotiations about the EU Commission’s proposal for reforming the EU Copyright Directive are proving difficult: there is still no agreement on controversial key articles, which could have significant consequences for freedom of expression and the way we interact online.

At the same time, a third wave of intense lobbying aimed at MEPs, heads of state and the general public is taking place, which will likely continue to intensify up until the final Parliamentary plenary vote, scheduled for early 2019. Facing off against each other are on one side the cash-rich tech platforms led by Google and tech trade associations, and on the other side, culturally and nationally important collecting societies (organisations created to manage copyright payments), creative industries and publishers that seem to have hyped up anti-US tech sentiment to push through their own lobby goals.

This is the continuation of the battle that took over the European Parliament this summer, where accusations of deceptive and unfair lobbying, including tactics like astroturfing and spambots, played a decisive role. The voices of civil society organisations, small platforms, libraries, academics, citizens and even the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression were the collateral damage of the dispute between competing big business lobbies. Lobbyists and groups with a vested interest dominated the debate, while citizens’ opinions and interests were crowded out of the discussion.

This lobby battle over copyright is one key example of how aggressive lobbying by competing industries often crowds out other voices and successfully distorts the public debate. Confusion reigned throughout about who was lobbying and for what, once again highlighting the urgent need to reform lobby transparency rules which are not working properly.

Hot summer in the European Parliament

In discussions on copyright there seems to be only one agreement amongst all sides of the argument: speedy technological developments and the borderless nature of the internet have changed the way that citizens consume and interact with copyrighted material. Whether that be streaming TV, downloading music, reading and sharing news online, or remixing content, the current patchwork of EU and national copyright rules are no longer fit to regulate this new era.

Lobbying on copyright has been intense for years, even as Gunther Oettinger, then Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, led discussions on how to update copyright laws. It became worse once the Commission’s proposal was finally published in September 2016. The text from the Commission contained two highly controversial measures, which have been at the centre of the discussions for the past two years:

  • Article 11 establishes a ‘neighbouring right’ for press publishers. Also called the ancillary right, while some critics have called it a link tax, this right adds an extra layer to publishers’ copyright of news content. It would expand the current copyright to cover the reproduction of even small parts of online content, including the little snippets that allow users to see the title and first lines of an article before clicking on them (see box 1);
  • Article 13 makes online services legally liable for unlawfully making content available and explicitly requires such platforms to use content-filtering technology to scan uploads done by users (see box 2).

Once the proposal was published, it was time for the European Parliament to start developing its own position. This work was originally led by Maltese Conservative Member of the European Parliament Therese Comodini, for the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), with additional input from the Internal Market, Industry, and Culture Committees.

In March 2017, Comodini published her report. Hailed by many as an improvement, Comodini’s proposal suggested deleting the proposed ‘neighbouring right’ for publishers. On Article 13, it heavily reduced the need for content-filtering technology and instead focused on licensing agreements between the online platforms and the rights holders. However before the work was complete Comodini returned to national politics, taking up a seat in the Maltese Parliament.

The Christian Democrat political group (EPP) then nominated Axel Voss MEP to take up her role in the copyright negotiations. This marked a turning point for the Parliament’s position and internal discussions. At the time, Voss reportedly claimed that he would keep working off the version drafted by Comodini, yet he also quickly made clear his disagreement regarding the key questions around Article 11 and 13. Voss already had a reputation in the Parliament as a bulldog, acting on behalf of the publishing industry, for example on the ePrivacy rules which are also being debated right now. At one point, Voss likened his pro-privacy opponents in the Civil Rights (LIBE) Committee to “Iran’s religious watchdog” for their views.

What is Article 11?

Article 11 – Protection of press publications concerning digital uses

The objective behind creating a ‘neighbouring right’ is clear: to ensure that publishers are compensated by news aggregators such as Google News, or social media platforms such as Facebook, for the advertising revenue they generate with their content.

However, there are many points of contention regarding the effectiveness of such an approach, and the potential collateral damage to the way users can access independent news content, as well as to smaller platforms.

Similar schemes which were trialled in Spain and Germany were considered a failure. In Germany, the first country to approve such a measure, Google refused to pay and instead chose to stop listing the outlets that did not enter into a direct agreement with it. In Spain, after the measure was approved, Google News simply shut down. Associations for press publishers like the European Newspapers Publishers’ Association (ENPA), European Magazine Media Association and European Publishers’ Council (representing national associations and big players in EU publishing like Axel Springer, Hubert Media etc) now say that creating such a right at the EU level would give them more leverage to force Google News to pay.

Academics are sceptical of this claim. For instance, 169 academics pointed out that “there is no indication whatsoever that the proposed right will produce the positive results it is supposed to”. Even worse, they fear that it may in fact lead to “further strengthening the power of media conglomerates and of global platforms to the detriment of smaller players”.

This is thus a dangerous gamble, as it essentially adds an extra layer of copyright to a patchwork of rules that might actually make it harder to access and share journalistic content. This criticism is supported by others, including European Research Centres, independent journalists like the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the association of smaller outlets, European Innovative Media Publishers. Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has also raised concerns that depending on how ‘snippet’ is defined, the proposal could affect hyperlinks as they are often accompanied by a small description that allows people to know what they are visiting in advance.

What followed was an intense political and lobby battle that peaked between the July vote in the Legal Affairs Committee and the final vote in plenary in September 2018. By the end, a new report drafted by Voss, which included a full ‘neighbouring right’ for press contents with a five year validity, was adopted. The new proposal from Voss has a minimal exception for the words within links. However, that would still mean that the short snippets we often see online, which include the title of an article and first two lines could be covered by an additional layer of copyright (also known as “ancillary copyright”), making it harder for platforms such as Google News but also reddit and similar ones to offer previews of articles. Back in again, was an Article 13 stronger than Comodini’s, but that does not explicitly mention content filtering technology, instead focusing on the legal liability of online services. Critics argue that in practice, due to the immense amount of content, the liability means filters would still be used.

This is the negotiating position the Parliament is now discussing with the Council.

Accusations of lobbying essential to secure Parliament result

The issue of lobbying, and specifically of deceptive, high-spending lobbying by Google, was hotly debated during the discussion in the Parliament over the summer of 2018, and was likely key in achieving this outcome. In July, for instance, at a press conference on the copyright directive hosted by Axel Voss, along with French S&D MEPs Pervanche Béres and Virginia Roziére, ALDE’s Jean Marie Cavada and the Greens’ Helga Trupel, one of the key issues raised was the intense lobbying undertaken by Google, Facebook and Amazon. In a press release, MEP Voss stated that: “I am very glad that despite the very strong lobbying campaign by the internet giants, there is now a majority in the full house backing the need to protect the principle of fair pay for European creatives.”

This was one of the sticking points during the latter months of the discussion, with a succession of headlines highlighting “The fierce lobby of Gafa against copyright” or “Google funds website that spams for its causes”. Other articles picked up on claims that Google had spent 30 million euros on copyright lobbying (also here).

Yet this does not reflect the full picture of the lobbying that actually took place.

Box 2: What is Article 13?

Article 13 – Use of protected content by information society service providers storing and giving access to large amounts of works and other subject-matter uploaded by their users

Article 13 has arguably been the most contentious in the Copyright Directive. As per the Commission proposal, this article puts responsibility on the internet service provider (i.e. Google, Facebook, etc, but also smaller players) to ensure that copyrighted content is not shared by its users without licence. Rights holders, collecting societies and creative industries want such provisions adopted to address what they see as the ‘value gap’, the difference between the revenue online services gain from creative content and what the creators are paid. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), for instance, says that “the Directive’s primary purpose is to level the playing field for right holders and online services who exploit copyright protected works”. Collective societies lobbying seems to mainly target Google’s Youtube.

Yet, the key question in this debate has been how users’ content can be monitored for copyright infringements. The volume of work published by users is so immense that the only effective way for online services to guarantee that they are not breaking copyright would be to implement a filter that would “scan” every single piece of content and compare it against a database of copyrighted material. The Commission and Council proposals explicitly require such filtering technology.

Critics have pointed out that this sort of filtering machine would stand in the way of freedom of expression online, with fears that algorithms would block even content that is not copyrighted, preventing it from being uploaded and shared. In some EU countries, it could even lead to limits on parody content such as memes, because not all countries have recognised parody exceptions to copyright law. A key concern has also been that algorithms will be unable to recognise subtleties, like context and parody. Do algorithms have a sense of humour?

Here also the directive could backfire. As the European Copyright Society, a network of independent academics, has pointed out, a filtering obligation would “privilege large incumbent platforms that have already successfully implemented such measures (such as YouTube), whereas entry to this market for newcomers may become all but impossible. The unforeseen effect of the provision may therefore, be locking in YouTube’s dominance in the EU”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, David Kaye, also joined the discussion, arguing that laws or rules that demand the filtering of content are “inconsistent with the right to privacy and likely to amount to pre-publication censorship.”, adding that “automated filtering may be ill-equipped to perform assessments of context in the application of complex areas of law, such as copyright”.

But who was actually lobbying the EU institutions on copyright?

One of the easiest ways to see who is lobbying the EU Institutions is to find out who is having meetings with EU civil servants and MEPs. Unfortunately, to this day there is still no overarching rule obliging them to make their full list of meetings available to the public. However, the Juncker Commission has adopted a rule that all Commissioners, cabinet members and director generals are required to publish a list of all of their lobby meetings.

Since November 2014 there were 765 declared encounters between lobbyists and the Commission with “copyright” as a subject 1 Over 93% of these were with corporate interests, but the list of main actors might be quite surprising: the lobbyists with the highest access were in fact not big tech, but the collecting societies, creative industries (including big film and music studios) and press publishers (see Table 1).

The most frequently listed names are: IFPI Representing recording industry worldwide (37 meetings) whose members include Sony Music and Warner Music, followed by the Federation of European Publishers (27) which represents national associations of book publishers, and GESAC – the European lobby for collecting societies (25), whose members include big EU collecting societies such as PRS for Music, the US giant recording label Universal Music Group International (22), and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (22), which represents national collecting societies.

Of the top 20 lobbyists by meetings, only two represented tech interests – Google, ranking number seven, and one of the trade associations it belongs to, DIGITALEUROPE, ranking 18th – while one sole NGO, the independent consumer organisation BEUC, ranked 12th.

The Parliament unfortunately does not have any rules in place obliging Members of the European Parliament or their staff to divulge their lobby meetings, though some MEPs and groups do so voluntarily, which gives us at least some insight into who was lobbying the Parliament.

Showing laudable practice, for instance, MEP Comodini attached a legislative footprint to her report on copyright. It listed over 100 organisations that she met with to discuss the Parliament’s position on the Copyright Directive (see page 54), but unfortunately the listing does not say how many times she met with each organisation.

Another resource is the list of lobby meetings held by UK Conservative MEPs which has been published since 2009 2 . In their listing it can also be seen that the collecting societies and publishers again got the greatest amount of access, although naturally there was a clearer national angle. The top 20 lobbyists who met with UK Conservative MEPs is made up almost entirely of big collecting societies (IFPI- representing the recorded industry worldwide, British Recorded Music Industry, PRS for Music) and publishers (European Media Magazine Association, Axel Springer). By comparison, of the big tech companies and their trade associations, four actors are in the top 20 (DIGITALEUROPE, the Computer & Communications Industry Association – CCIA, EdiMA and Google). The list of lobby meetings also reveals a curious meeting with German publisher Hubert Burda, who was accompanied by a former MEP Carole Tongue. Not a single NGO made it to the top 20 organisations met by UK Conservatives on Copyright (see Table 2).

The last resource for meetings data which is publicly available comes from the Green MEPs 3, whose meetings reflected a better balance of views, a bigger presence of small organisations, and many more NGOs. In spite of this, however, the top 20 still contains eight collecting societies and publishers organisations (see Table 3).

The list from the Green MEPs is particularly interesting because it is regularly updated by them, and it reveals that Google has increased its lobbying on copyright, and indeed counts as one of the actors with the most meetings with the Greens (5 in total). However, three of these took place in November 2018, after the main vote in the Parliament.

Overall, the limited information which is available about lobby meetings shows the intense level of lobbying taking place on the Copyright Directive, but it also interestingly exposes that the biggest lobbies were not in fact big tech companies and their associates, as many headlines claimed, but the publishers, creative industries and collecting societies.

MEPs under intense pressure

One to one lobby meetings are merely one way that influence can take place. Corporate Europe Observatory wrote to MEPs from the Legal Affairs Committee4 the main committee responsible for the portfolio in the Parliament, to get their impression of the process.

A Cabinet member of MEP Marinho e Pinto, Portuguese MEP from ALDE, for instance, told us that “All parties were extremely active since 2016” and “we got infograms, studies, surveys and invitations for seminars, etc”. However, what they called “the lobbyists against the reform (…) were aggressive as to spam mailboxes with thousands of e-mails per day, hacking Mr. Marinho e Pinto social media as well as the Wikipedia page.” The MEP supported Article 11 and 13 and that put him as the focus for online trolling in Portugal which included having a vulnerability of his wordpress blog being used to send out embarassing tweets from his personal social media account. This is obviously concerning and counter-productive but unlikely the result of a coordinated lobby effort.

According to Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, who has followed these discussions closely from the beginning, the lobbying by the creative industries and publishers was in her assessment “much more spread out over time, very involved with the proposal from the start and they have a lot of power in terms of connections to the highest level. And the lobbying against the proposal, I think, with a few exceptions of maybe small civil society groups, has been much more concentrated at the end. Some organisations and also some companies, like Github for example, have woken up to the fact that this might create a problem to their business model relatively late in the process, and then were able to activate some of their communities and fans.”

Cabinet members of Green MEP Max Andersson told us that this was the “most intense lobby effort so far” during his mandate and estimated that “leading up to the votes, both the one in JURI in June and the two in the plenary, the contacts were quite frequent. From May to September we estimate that we got over 3,000 emails.”

They also referred us to the torrent of material his office received from publishers, collecting societies and publishers. These included an empty CD, a blank letter and pamphlets claiming that “Culture is under attack”. Europe For Creators also sent a letter entitled ‘Let’s play safe’ which included a condom with the phrase “We love tech giants, we love protection too”!

Europe For Creators is a coalition of national level collecting societies such as PRS for Music and SABAM, which is run by GESAC, the European lobby group of collecting societies. Yet, these pamphlets do not mention anywhere who is behind them, and Europe for Creators is not a registered coalition on the EU lobby transparency register.

Europe For Creators material

Europe For Creators material

One particularly extravagant lobby resource that was sent to MEPs took the form of a full newspaper, with a headline that read “Copyright: the Voice of the Independent Press” (see picture 3). Across its ‘front page’ the bold title “Europe’s independent press needs Article 11” is followed by an enlarged picture of a journalist being shot in Syria. The caption reads:

“AFP reporter Sammy Ketz, hits the ground as a Syrian soldier runs past during sniper fire in the ancient Christian Syrian town of Maalula, on September 18, 2013. Journalists in Syria have been killed by snipers, accused of spying, and kidnapped by gunmen, and with the threats growing, many say the conflict is now too dangerous to cover. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says at least 25 professional journalists have been killed in the conflict’.

Below the picture is a call to MEPs to “reject any attempt to delete Article 11 from the European Commission’s proposed Copyright Directive”. Inside is an editorial, which is really a lobby letter, signed by 18 European News Agencies, as well as a text from AFP Baghdad Bureau Chief Sammy Ketz (pictured in the emotive image used on the front cover). Ketz’s text appeals to MEPs to support Article 11, directly linking it with his experiences of reporting from the war front and arguing that Article 11 would help to secure revenue so that the media can continue to run expensive foreign news operations.

Copyright: the voice of the independent press

Copyright: the voice of the independent press

This is a powerful call for support, yet many doubts remain as to whether Article 11 would actually increase revenue for media and thus provide more protection to quality journalism. As mentioned, similar ‘neighbouring rights’ were brought in in Spain and Germany at the domestic level, but they have not led to increased revenue to journalists. In both cases, what was at times called a ‘Google tax’ was actually successfully avoided by Google, but negatively affected the much smaller news aggregators that directly compete with the internet giant. Academics seem unconvinced that the result will be any different at EU level (see Box 1).

Ensuring that independent quality journalism has enough funds to flourish is essential to ensuring the quality of our democracy, and it is necessary to discuss how to achieve this, including supporting alternative media business models, but also redistributive taxation of the tech giants. However, Article 11 as it is drafted does not seem like it will achieve that outcome, and it might even actually lead to the opposite consequence of increasing the power of services like Google News.

Publishers’ power and access

The press publishers have played an important role in the debate on the Copyright Directive from the start. Back in February 2017, Politico Europe (a newspaper owned by Axel Springer publishers) pointed out the role of the German press in pushing for a ‘neighbouring right’, which they claimed had been “aggressively championed” by Gunther Oettinger for two years. The German press played a similarly important role in fighting the exceptions created in the Marrakesh Treaty to increase access for blind and visually impaired people.

From the lobby meetings lists referred to earlier, several actors stand out, including German public-service broadcasters ZDF and ARD and publisher Axel Springer. The latter company, and especially its CEO, Mathias Döpfner, seem to have been crucial in the copyright discussion, as the publishing company is a vocal critic of the power of big US tech (GAFA – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), with whom they compete for the online advertising market.

The news publisher is influential in Germany and Europe. In Berlin, it is close to the governing German Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), to whom it is linked through party donations but also personal relationships. When the extra ‘neighbouring right’ for publishers was approved in Germany in 2013, Springer quickly made an agreement with Google News to ensure that it wouldn’t be de-listed and thus lose visibility.

In Brussels, Springer plays a very prominent role within the publishers’ associations, such as the European Newspapers Publishers Association, the European Media Magazine Association and the European Publishers Council. The first two associations even share offices with Axel Springer.

Throughout the entire Copyright process in the EU the publisher enjoyed a very high level of access to policy-makers, as a result of its status as a key German publisher and friend of the CDU/CSU. Back in 2016, in a speech for the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers, headed of course by Döpfner, Commissioner Oettinger, loudly told the German publishers to get their journalists to stop criticising the Copyright directive.

Springer’s links with the CDU/CSU were also useful when MEP Voss was nominated to take over from Comodini as the lead MEP on copyright. At that time, Voss had a meeting with Oettinger, who by that stage had already moved to a different Commission portfolio but was still following the discussions, and Matthias Döpfner, Springer’s CEO. According to Oettingers briefing notes, at the meeting Döpfner was expected to “raise questions about the Commission’s position regarding Ms Comodini’s draft report”, the one that had deleted the ‘neighbouring right’, and Oettinger was prepared to say that they continued to expect the same level of ambition from MEPs as the Commission had shown.

A meeting between a Parliament Rapporteur, the Commissioner formerly in charge for a policy issue, and a key lobbyist is highly unusual.

Publishing lobby strategy concentrates on GAFA/Google lobbying

The press publishers were also pioneers in hyping up GAFA lobbying in order to push through their own lobby goals. Already, in the discussions on improving the protection of personal data in ePrivacy, Döpfner had accused Google and Facebook of pushing for higher standards of data privacy just to crush their competition. That claim was easily dismissed by everyone, as it was clear that Facebook was as interested as the publishers in saving its surveillance-based advertising business model and thus opposed a tougher data privacy law.

In the copyright discussion, claims that GAFA, and particularly Google, were behind all opposition to Article 11 and 13 were again a strong message from publishers, and harder to counter. For instance, in the lobby newspaper produced by the news agencies, both the text from AFP’s editor Katz, and the ‘editorial’, mention what they call deceptive lobbying. Katz wrote that the “reform has been fiercely opposed by Facebook and Google, who have campaigned on a complete fabrication: a supposed threat to people’s free access to the internet”. He even declared that “I am convinced that the members of parliament who have been misled by deceptive lobbying now understand that non-paying access to the internet is not at risk.”

How much money did Google actually spend on copyright lobbying?

Over-hyping the level of lobbying from Google, and painting everyone on the other side with the same brush was part of a lobby strategy. As Music:ally, an information website for the music industry, described it:

“From the music side, this week’s lobbying is focused around two points: convincing politicians of Article 13’s necessity on one hand, and criticising Google’s lobbying on the other.”

That same week, immediately before the JURI committee vote, the UK Music Industry body published a press release stating that “figures show Google’s €31m EU lobbying bid” on copyright. UK Music simply took the entire lobby budget declared by Google in 2017, €6 million, and added to that the budgets of all the organisations and think tanks it is a member of, declaring that the “The combined value of Google’s indirect lobbying of the EU amounts to €25.5m”.

This is a highly problematic and flawed interpretation of the Transparency Register. Google’s entire self-declared lobby budget does make it one of the EU’s highest spending lobby groups. However, only a portion of the declared €6 million would likely be spent on copyright, especially as Google is also fighting several other significant lobby battles in the EU (for example on the anti-trust law cases being brought against Android, digital tax, terrorist content, fake news etc). According to available meeting data, it looks like most of Google’s lobby meetings were in fact on other issues from the Copyright Directive, so it appears that this is not their priority at the moment.

The €31 million figure also assumes that all the associations and think tanks of which Google is a member focused their entire declared EU lobby spending on copyright in 2017. That would include, for example, BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ lobby, which are not necessarily active on the Copyright Directive, and if they are would only spend a marginal part of their budget on this issue. In most cases these groups (such as Friends of Europe, Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, Bruegel etc) did little or nothing at all on the Copyright Directive, so these amounts should clearly not be included in the calculations.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to know exactly how much money Google did spend on lobbying on copyright. The EU’s lobby transparency rules only oblige lobby groups to declare the entire amount of money spent on influencing the EU institutions in the closed financial year. This means that we will have to wait almost a year to find out exactly how much these groups spent on lobbying the EU in 2018. And even then, lobby groups only have to declare their entire budget without any issue-wise breakdown, so it will be impossible to tell how much any of these groups spent specifically on copyright, or any other issue.

With better EU lobby transparency rules it would be possible to have a properly informed debate. In the US, which has a mandatory lobby transparency system, companies are required to disclose how much they spend on lobbying on specific laws and to report every three months, so the information is up-to-date.

Measures in the field of ‘legislative footprint’ would also help to clarify what is going on in terms of lobbying on the Copyright Directive. Lobbyists could, for instance, be required to submit policy papers and other lobbying documents to a publicly accessible online database.

Does that mean that Google did not lobby on copyright?

To put it bluntly, no. Of course Google did lobby, but apparently not quite as significantly as those on the other side of the debate implied. Google has a clear interest in stopping or shaping parts of the legislation, as the ‘neighbouring right’ threatens its Google News services and Article 13’s legal liability for platforms would include its subsidiary, Youtube. However, Google (and Facebook) also already use content-filtering technology, and Google has even developed its own Content ID which it could sell to smaller players if they were required to filter content.

Google held a total of 22 meetings with high-level Commission staff specifically on copyright. In 2016, they were already publicly lobbying for a solution to Article 13 that included filtering. See for instance this tweet from Vice-President of the EU Commission Ansip:

“Talking #platforms and #copyright with Caroline Atkinson from @Google, Content ID – big step towards fighting #piracy.”

Atkinson is the head lobbyist for Google and a former Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics to former US President Obama.

During the Parliament discussions, Google’s most visible lobby face seems to have been the trade organisations it belongs to. This may have been because both Google and Facebook decided that their unpopularity meant that lobbying in their own name would be counter-productive. One of the most active of these trade associations was EdiMA, which representa online platforms and other platform-related businesses. EdiMA’s board members include representatives of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Mozilla and Oath (formerly Yahoo), among others.

Its director Siada El Ramly told Corporate Europe Observatory that the Copyright Directive is one of the key lobbying issues for EDiMA (alongside others like the New Deal for Consumers and ePrivacy). Their work in the area began under the previous Commission, and they have also lobbied the Commission in recent years as the directive was being discussed.

Towards the Parliament they have taken the approach of building wider outreach, including to key policy-makers, but also coordinated outreach to other potential stakeholders, including discussions attended by organisations like Allied for Startups, ETNO (the telecommunications lobby), EACA (the advertisers lobby), other individual companies like eBay and Bosch, and “the odd time we would have someone from civil society”. According to EDiMA these discussions were “really gathering a plurality of different views with similar concerns. Sometimes not with similar concerns, to share information.” However EDiMA also launched an intense outreach campaign targetting MEPs, initially only those directly involved in the file, but later all 750 MEPs. (See an illustration)

EDiMA may have caught decision-makers’ attention with its public outreach stunts. These included a letter to MEPs with the contents blacked out, which claimed that the introduction of filtering technology as per Article 13 would be equivalent to the military censorship which took place in 1918. This angered at least MEP Marc Joulard who tweeted:

“I received this scandalous letter equating the supporters of #copyright with the censors of the Great War. There are limits to lobbying, exploiting the memory of the dead is a red line. Will we then be called collaborators? More than ever I support Article 13.”

But the public stunts did not end there. Just before the July committee vote, anyone passing the European Parliament in Brussels could not have avoided seeing the vans with strong messages against filtering. These vans kept driving around Place Luxembourg, and were photographed and published by many newspapers as the face of GAFA’s attempts to divert the copyright process. Other stunts included serving filtered coffee, with the motto “Filters for coffee, not the Internet”, and setting up a copyright twitter account which looked for copyright infringement by MEPs and called them out on it, to highlight how frequent copyright infringements are.

Vans from EDIMA

Vans from EDIMA

All of these actions were clearly labelled as EdIMA’s, but were in fact designed by the public affairs consultancy Red Flag, which declared receiving at least €100,000 in 2017 for such work. EdiMA itself declared a lobby budget of €300,000 – €399,999 for 2016-2017, but this does not reflect what they actually spent lobbying on copyright so far. Those numbers will be updated only in next year’s lobby declaration, and they will likely increase.

Beyond EdiMA, another very active trade association was lobbying on copyright on Google’s behalf: the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA). This trade association is one the main EU representatives for tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, eBay and Oath (formerly Yahoo). According to Lobbyfacts data, in 2016 it spent at least €400,000 lobbying the EU.

Copyright is one of the issues that CCIA lobbies on; Integritywatch5 shows that of the 46 meetings they had with the Commission since 2014, only five of them were explicitly on copyright. But the CCIA’s role in the copyright discussion was more significant because of its participation in, and funding of, the coalition Copyright for Creativity (C4C).

Copyright for Creativity and accusations of ‘astro-turfing’

Copyright for Creativity describes itself as “a broad-based coalition that seeks an informed debate on how copyright can more effectively promote innovation, access, and creativity.” According to its coordinator, Caroline De Cock, the coalition was set up in 2010 in Geneva, and originally connected the tech industry and public libraries, as they had a common goal on the copyright reform discussions.

The coalition was then run by the CCIA itself, up until 2013, when they decided to externalise the coordination due to the workload, but also to change focus from Geneva to Brussels. De Cock, who by then had already started her own lobby consultancy, N-Square consultancy (focused on telecoms and internet issues), was then hired via an open call for consultants6.

She has been running the C4C coalition since then, full-time for the past two years. In recent years they have also expanded their reach: the C4C declaration is supported by 42 signatories, most of which are not for profit organisations, public organisations, research bodies and libraries. The declaration is based on the need to to harmonise the exceptions (eg science, research, parody) to copyright at EU level.

According to Lobbyfacts data, in 2017 the coalition spent at least €50,000 lobbying the EU Institutions. De Cock told Corporate Europe Observatory that two thirds of their funding is still provided by CCIA via grants, which Copyright for Creativity has to reapply for annually. She claimed that the applications for these grants did not require sending or coordinating plans with the CCIA. The other funding for the coalition comes from the Open Society Foundation7.

This coalition coordinated the Save Your Internet campaign, which brought up the threat of web filters and their potential consequences for freedom of expression. Once the discussion on web filters became more intense, C4C was accused of being an astro-turf organisation for the tech lobby and particularly for Google. For instance, in August, the Frankfurter Allgemeine published a long comment article entitled “Anatomy of a Political Hack” which claimed that “American companies from the internet industry are funding substantial parts of a campaign in Europe to influence EU legislation. The campaign should look like a grass-roots movement to the outside world, but it is only astro-turf.”8 This long comment piece was authored by Volker Rieck*, the owner of File Defense, a company fighting online piracy, according to Rieck, the company limits «the visibility of works on illegal platforms»* (edited 18 December 2018). He wrote two other opinion pieces in the Frankfurter Allgemeine attacking the NGOs and citizen involvement in the anti-filter discussions, even publishing an English translation on his blog, which was then shared by the Federation of European Publishers and others.

But, the website of C4C and its lobby register entry make explicit their signatories and funders. All members have veto power in the coalition, which of course includes the CCIA, but also the other signatories like the NGOs that have constantly fought against big tech giants on other issues, including the European Digital Rights organisation (EDRi) and the EU’s consumer rights organisation BEUC.

One can certainly criticise the participation of the CCIA in the campaign because it would clearly seek to protect the business interests of its own members, but it is far-fetched to accuse these independent, pro-privacy, pro-digital rights organisations of being pawns of big tech, when they are in fact often their main opponents in the regulatory process on issues from ePrivacy to trade, or how to handle mis-information. Up to this point, the evidence does not back up claims of astro-turfing.

Spambots, astro-turf and DDOs – what does it even mean?

Before the summer vote in the JURI committee, C4C launched an Email Your MEP campaign that provided supporters with the tools to get in touch with their representatives and state why they opposed content-filtering as per Article 13. The campaign was more popular than expected, with tens of thousands of emails being sent.

Harsh words were thrown at the C4C mailing tools, from arguing that they were nothing but spambots, to it being called a denial-of-service attack (DDOS) – a tactic often used by hackers to shut down websites. For example, see again the comment piece which Volker Rieck* penned for the Frankfurter Allgemeine. He wrote that parliamentarians were “being bombarded with emails and calls from allegedly concerned citizens. But the truth is another story”.

Email your MEP campaigns are a common tool used by civil society organisations who mobilise their communities and supporters to exercise their democratic rights to engage with their elected representatives. Identity verification standards vary according to the tool used, but in this case, it seems that the campaign did not require email verification. That means that technically speaking, people could lie and change their identity in those emails.

De Cock explained that when they started the campaign they did not expect that so many people would participate, and so they themselves were surprised by the strength and impact of the campaign. But even then, can it really be labelled a denial of service attack? Such attacks are generally quite hostile, and aim to shut a website down completely. This is a remarkably different objective from that of an Email Your MEP campaign, which aims to ensure that MEPs are aware that there is popular support for certain causes and issues.

Astoundingly, ALDE MEP Jean Marie Cavada even said in an interview:

“After having analyzed the platform from which all emails come, I realized that it does not require a valid email address from the “users” to send emails. Thus, as sometimes we receive dozens of emails per minute, we can conceive that it is actually robots that send all these emails, which luckily makes this movement lose credibility.”

Many MEPs simply wrote back to the senders to confirm their identity. De Cock, for instance, was then forwarded several of these exchanges between MEPs and their constituents. It seems Mr Cavada did not write back to the people who had contacted him.

It is worth noting that PRS for Music also created a tool to email MEPs in advance of the vote, with the call to action: “PRS Member – Take 90 seconds to influence the vote”. This tool did not even include a return address, and yet there were no claims that these emails were sent by bots. It is interesting that C4C seem to have been criticised simply because of the volume of emails, which arguably simply indicates the level of concern from constituents on the issue. However, both the C4C and PRS can be criticised for the loose use of internet tools to email MEPs.

Publishers and collecting societies behind criticism of #SaveYourInternet campaign

Cavada’s interview was published in Netopia, a website and “idea forum” that deserves a second look. This website became very visible during the copyright discussions, especially on social media, as it seemed to be an aggregator of the criticism aimed at those sceptical of the Copyright Directive.

A particularly stark example of their tactics is their work (in collaboration with the previously mentioned Volker Rieck*) to produce an infographic that makes it look as if Google financing was behind the entire #SaveYourInternet campaign, and all the different organisations that were critical of the directive.

Yet, Netopia is itself not an independent website. Its spokesperson is Per Strömbäck, a lobbyist for the Swedish gaming industry, and it is supported by publishers and creative industry lobby groups including the European Publishers Council, the Federation of European Publishers, IFPI and the Motion Picture Association. The list of supporters is visible in Netopia’s website, but it is unclear how much each contribute to it. We do know that at least some of the groups have a keen interest in the website, as the public agenda from the Federation of European Publishers shows that they attend Netopia’s steering group meetings.

It is especially questionable for publishers to support an organisation spreading unsubstantiated claims.

Even though this organisation directly attempts to influence the EU institutions, Netopia is not registered as an EU lobbyist. The lobby firm MSL Brussels does declare the website to be one of its lobby clients. According to MSL’s website, Netopia hired them to “enhance the impact of the creative industries […] among EU institutions and Brussels-based stakeholders.” MSL runs the secretariat of Netopia and put together a range of lobbying activities which they claim were sucessful in increasing Netopia’s profile in EU institutional events and in EU media. MSL even says that the “EU recently adopted legislation that takes into consideration the copyright model supported by the creative industry.” According to MSL’s declaration, Netopia paid them at least €50,000 in 2017.

Corporate Europe Observatory has submitted an alert to the Transparency Register that Netopia should be registered and its membership should be clarified.

Lumping in big industry players like Google with every other critical voice, such as NGOs and activists, and then tarnishing them both, was a successful strategy in this debate. Using this approach, all criticism, regardless of where it came from or what it focused on, could simply be dismissed. This was not just done by marginal figures like Netopia, but was also replicated by the established lobby actors. For example the Chief Executive of collecting society PRS for Music wrote a long blog on Linkedin in July 2018 where he criticised “the internet giants and the consumer organisations they fund” for spreading lies to safeguard GAFA’s profits. One of the pamphlets from Europe For Creators also made a point of stating: «We are people, not bots».

Such comments had an impact on how NGOs and activists were treated. MEP Reda, for instance, recalled that in September during a visit to Brussels by young activists from her party, one participant told her “that he was standing outside the Parliament with a home-made sign against Article 13 and he said some MEPs came up to him and gave him the finger and said he was a tool paid by Google”.

Youtube joins the game, late but with firepower

Ultimately, the Parliament approved Voss’ text which includes ‘neighbouring rights’ for press publishers with a minimal exception covering the words within links, and an Article 13 that places legal liability for users’ copyright infringements on the platforms, but does not explicitly mention content-filtering.

During this period, in the background, the Council of the EU (member states) was also deciding its own negotiating position. It also supported a version of Article 11 that includes ‘neighbouring rights’, but on Article 13 its position includes liability for platforms only if they do not use the best filters available. This seems to be in line with what Google and Facebook actually want (see for instance the emails from Facebook to the European Commission).

Under the Council proposal, Youtube would in fact be able to continue exactly the way it has so far, and it is likely that creators would not receive extra payment. Now that the Parliament and Council are hammering out their differences, Google is increasing its lobbying to fight the Parliament’s version of Article 13, supposedly so that the Council position can be adopted. In an email to MEPs after a lobby dinner held by Youtube, its CEO Susan Wojcicki declared its support for the “goals of Article 13”, that they “want to protect rights holders” but also that there is a need to “provide liability protections for platforms like YouTube”. In the end, the company is clear that it supports using content-filtering technology, like Content ID.

The meeting data also shows that Google started becoming more active after the peak summer lobbying in the Parliament, and they took on more public activities since then. In September, for instance, Youtube/Google arranged for musician Wyclef Jean to address a public hearing in Strasbourg, arguing for the role of platforms in creating income for artists. This hearing was set up by EU40, an unofficial intergroup in the Parliament that brings together MEPs under the age of 40,which is sponsored by companies including Google.

Quite controversially, Youtube is also currently running pop-up ads on Youtube videos and recruiting their own popular Youtubers to make videos alerting their audiences to the dangers of Article 13, including claiming that Article 13’s liability would lead to some videos being blocked. A string of videos claiming that the Copyright Directive would end their channel have since then been made by influential Youtubers with millions of followers, once again stirring up the discussion on the benefits of the Directive.

Now, it has started its public offensive against Article 11, with Google News’ Vice President, Richard Gingras, publishing a blog clarifying that their goal is that the directive includes the right for publishers to decide whether «to waive the need for a commercial license for their content.» This is being matched with a round of media work where Gingras is refusing to say the company won’t close the service if the measure is approved.

We expect that this lobbying battle will continue intensifying all the up until the final plenary vote in early 2019.

Lessons for the EU’s lobby transparency rules

This case is a stark example of how the current EU Transparency Register is still failing to bring to light who is lobbying on what, and with what budgets. The fact that even MEPs themselves could be confused by the flurry of lobbying targetting them should be a call to arms to significantly reform our lobby regulation.

A few lessons can be learned:

  • We need a genuinely mandatory lobby register based on laws which can force all actors seeking to influence the EU Institutions to declare their activities. In case of non-compliance, these rules should include sanctions.
  • Registered organisations should be required to update their lobby declarations every quarter and to indicate specifically how much money they dedicate to each individual issue.
  • NGOs and think thanks should have to declare their main streams of income.
  • EU civil servants and MEPs should not meet with unregistered lobbyists, and they should list their lobby meetings online.
  • Beyond that, EU Institutions should adopt ‘legislative footprints’ for each file, which could include lists of everyone they met to discuss that specific issue, but also force lobby organisations to submit their policy papers and other lobbying documents in a central publicly accessible online database.

Members of the European Parliament are currently discussing an amendment to the Rules of Procedure that would oblige Rapporteurs, Shadow Rapporteurs and Committee chairs to proactively list their lobby meetings. Corporate Europe Observatory fully supports this change which, had it been in place during the copyright discussions, would have helped to expose who was lobbying MEPs on this complex issue. To learn more about this and other reforms which are required for the EU’s lobby transparency rules, visit the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the EU (ALTER-EU).

The limits of the EU’s current lobby regulation

The copyright vote clearly illustrates the weaknesses of the EU’s current lobby transparency rules – it is still nearly impossible for citizens to adequately assess who is actually lobbying on what issue and with what budgets, in real time. And now we face additional lobby tactics such as misinformation campaigns based on confusing technical language to discredit authentic criticism, as well as the power of big tech who have their own platforms which they can use to push their own policy goals.

It is clear that these significant business lobbies representing big tech, publishers and collecting societies have completely taken over the public discussion on the merits and pitfalls of the Copyright Directive. As collateral damage of these lobby strategies, the criticism of the Copyright Directive from civil society organisations working on human rights, consumer rights and open access to knowledge, libraries, the inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, input from academics, the UN Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and now almost 4 million citizens who signed a petition against contentfiltering, have simply been ignored or dismissed.

Regardless of whether the trilogue’s outcome favours collecting societies, publishers or big platforms, this is not an effective nor accountable policy process, and it seems clear that in the midst of the intense lobby battle the public interest has been all but ignored.

* Edited 18 December 2018 to correct the spelling of the name Volker Rieck and correct the activities performed by the company File Defense Services. The previous version incorrectly stated that it was “a company that helps clients to receive copyright remuneration for their work”.

Volker Rieck contacted Corporate Europe Observatory to state the Article 13 in copyright directive does not, in any way, affect his company and he is “not a benefiter if the directive comes or not”.

  • 1. Data checked on IntegrityWatch 10 December 2018. Throghout this text we refer to encounters, meaning instances of one organisation being named in one calendar as a participant in one meeting. This is not the same as the number of meetings as often meetings are logged by more than one civil servant or MEP, but also at times meetings can involve more than one lobby orgazination.
  • 2. List of meetings covers the entire reporting period up until June 2018
  • 3. List of meetings covers the entire reporting period up until 10 December 2018
  • 4. Corporate Europe Observatory sent a short survey to all the members of the JURI committee. Only three MEPs replied: ALDE’s Marinho e Pinto, the Green Party’s Max Andersson and Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda.
  • 5. Data checked on 10 December 2018
  • 6. N-Square Consultancy’s former clients include Google, but that relationship has ended in January 2018. That seems to not have involved copyright work.
  • 7. Corporate Europe Observatory also receives funding from the Open Society Foundation
  • 8. Translated to English using DeepL.


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Πηγή: Copyright Directive: how competing big business lobbies drowned out critical voices | Corporate Europe Observatory

14 Δεκεμβρίου 1976: Η 17Ν εκτελεί τον αρχιβασανιστή της χούντας Ε. Μάλλιο

14 Δεκεμβρίου 1976: Η 17Ν εκτελεί τον αρχιβασανιστή της χούντας Ε. Μάλλιο


Σαν σήμερα, το 1976, πέφτει νεκρός στο Φάληρο ο απότακτος αστυνομικός και βασανιστής της χούντας Ευάγγελος Μάλλιος, από τις σφαίρες «ενός ψηλού και μιας κοπέλας», όπως φωνάζει λίγο προτού ξεψυχήσει, οι οποίοι ανήκουν στη νεοσύστατη «17 Νοέμβρη». Είναι μόλις η δεύτερη επίθεση της διαβόητης πλέον τρομοκρατικής οργάνωσης και χειροκροτείται από ένα μεγάλο κομμάτι της ελληνικής κοινωνίας, που λίγους μήνες νωρίτερα έχει παρακολουθήσει εμβρόντητο την αθώωση των αρχιβασανιστών της δικτατορίας.


Η δίκη της Χαλκίδας ξεκινάει στις 11 Νοεμβρίου 1975 και θα προκαλέσει την οργή της κοινής γνώμης, όχι μόνο για την αθωωτική της ετυμηγορία, αλλά και λόγω της εξωφρενικής συμπεριφοράς κατηγορουμένων και δικαστών. Μεταξύ άλλων, ακούγεται πως «οι αστυνομικοί Μάλλιος, Μπάμπαλης, Καραπαναγιώτης και Κραβαρίτης ήταν ικανότατοι και εκτελούσαν υποδειγματικά τα καθήκοντά τους». Σε αρκετές περιπτώσεις μάλιστα, οι κατηγορούμενοι παίρνουν το ρόλο του ανακριτή, υποβάλλοντας προκλητικές ερωτήσεις στους μάρτυρες, ενώ διατείνονται πως οι κακώσεις που φέρουν τα θύματά τους είναι αποτέλεσμα αυτοτραυματισμού.

Δύο ακριβώς χρόνια μετά την εξέγερση του Πολυτεχνείου (17/11/1975), Τα Νέα κυκλοφορούν με τίτλο «Προκλητικοί οι βασανιστές στη Χαλκίδα»: «Οι κατηγορούμενοι είναι προκλητικοί. Γελάνε την ώρα που τα θύματά τους καταθέτουν για τα απάνθρωπα βασανιστήρια που υπέστησαν στην Ασφάλεια. Συνεχίζουν τον πόλεμο λάσπης κατά των μαρτύρων κατηγορίας, υποστηρίζοντας για μερικούς απ’ αυτούς ότι συνεργάστηκαν με την Ασφάλεια».

Η κοινωνική οργή για την ατιμωρησία των βασανιστών εκφράζεται με μια σειρά συνθημάτων, όπως«Οι φασίστες στο Γουδί», «Δίκες λαϊκές για τους βασανιστές», «Φόλα στο σκύλο της ΕΣΑ», «Ο λαός δεν ξεχνά, τους φασίστες τους κρεμά», κλπ, και όταν δολοφονείται ο Ε. Μάλλιος στις 14 Δεκεμβρίου 1976, δεν είναι λίγοι αυτοί που επικροτούν την κίνηση της «17 Νοέμβρη».

Για παράδειγμα, λίγες μέρες μετά την εκτέλεση, η ομάδα «Προλεταριακή Αριστερά» εκδίδει προκήρυξη συμπαράστασης στη 17Ν που αναφέρει: «Μέσα σ’ αυτές τις συνθήκες, η οργάνωση 17 Νοέμβρη έδρασε σαν εντολοδόχος του λαού. Το πιστόλι που εκτέλεσε τον Μάλλιο το κρατούσαν οι εκατοντάδες νεκροί της δικτατορίας, οι δεκάδες χιλιάδες βασανισμένοι, ένας ολόκληρος λαός. Γι’ αυτό και σύσσωμη ήταν η αντίδραση του λαού: “Ν’ αγιάσουν τα χέρια τους”».

Παράλληλα, στην κηδεία του Μάλλιου σημειώνονται έντονα επεισόδια από ακροδεξιούς, υποστηρικτές της δικτατορίας, μεταξύ των οποίων και οι Γεωργαλάς, Αγαθαγγέλου και Μιχαλολιάκος. Οι παριστάμενοι φωνάζουν αντικομμουνιστικά συνθήματα και, σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, ξυλοκοπούν 5 δημοσιογράφους υπό την ανοχή της αστυνομίας.

Μέσα σε αυτή την εκρηκτική κατάσταση, δε λείπουν και οι φωνές που μιλούν για «προβοκάτσια» εκ μέρους των αμερικανικών μυστικών υπηρεσιών ή άλλων «σκοτεινών κύκλων» και συμφερόντων που επιζητούν την πολιτική αναστάτωση της χώρας. Ειδικά τις πρώτες μέρες, το ενδεχόμενο αυτό αναδεικνύεται αρκετά από την αστυνομική διεύθυνση, τον πολιτικό κόσμο αλλά και μέρος των ΜΜΕ.

Σε δημοσίευμα των Νέων (22.10.1977) αναφέρεται πως «παράγοντες των αρχών ασφαλείας πιστεύουν πως πίσω από την επωνυμία αυτή (σ.σ.: 17Ν) κρύβεται κάποια άλλη οργάνωση που έχει αντικειμενικό σκοπό τη δημιουργία ανώμαλων καταστάσεων». Ο Καραμανλής επιστρέφει εσπευσμένα από το Πακιστάν και ενημερώνεται για το τεταμένο κοινωνικό κλίμα, ενώ το βάρος της κατάστασης πέφτει στον τότε υπουργό Άμυνας, Ευάγγελο Αβέρωφ, που υποστηρίζει πως ο Μάλλιος στάθηκε άτυχος επειδή ήταν υπεύθυνος του τομέα της Ασφάλειας που ανέκρινε τους κομμουνιστές.«Ο Μάλλιος δεν ήταν βασανιστής, μολονότι, όπως πολλοί άλλοι στη θέση του, είχε μάλλον χαστουκίσει κρατούμενους στη διάρκεια των ανακρίσεων», ισχυρίζεται ο Αβέρωφ.

Η εκτίμηση που κάνει ο Βρετανός πρέσβης, σε επιστολή του προς το Φόρεϊν Οφις, για τη στάση του υπουργού είναι πως «βεβαίως ανήκει στη δεξιά πτέρυγα της κυβέρνησης και τα καθήκοντά του αυτήν την περίοδο, αλλά και οι πολιτικές του φιλοδοξίες μακροπρόθεσμα, τον κάνουν να αντιμετωπίζει με μεγαλύτερη ανεκτικότητα τις απρεπείς πράξεις του προηγούμενου καθεστώτος. Αλλά γι’ αυτόν ακριβώς τον λόγο η προειδοποίησή του για τις ενδεχόμενες επιπτώσεις, που μπορεί να έχει η δολοφονία του Μάλλιου στους κύκλους της Δεξιάς, θα πρέπει να ληφθεί σοβαρά υπόψη».

Ακολουθεί η προκήρυξη της 17Ν που άφησαν τα μέλη της οργάνωσης στον τόπο της δολοφονίας:



Δύο ολόκληρα χρόνια ο Ελλ. Λαός περιμένει να δη την τιμωρία των βασανιστών της ασφάλειας, των εγκληματιών του λαού που επί 7,5 χρόνια βασάνιζαν με μεσαιωνικά και βάρβαρα βασανιστήρια χιλιάδες αντιφασίστες αγωνιστές. Κι αντί για τιμωρία βλέπει την αποκατάσταση των βασανιστών. Όλοι οι βασανιστές της ασφάλειας κυκλοφορούν λεύτεροι. Οι περισσότεροι ξαναγύρισαν στις θέσεις τους. Κι αυτοί που αποστρατεύτηκαν για τα μάτια, παραμένουν οι μυστικοσύμβουλοι της ασφάλειας ενώ παράλληλα ξεκουράζονται στα πολυτελή διαμερίσματα και τις δίπλες τους που έκτισαν βασανίζοντας τον Ελλ. Λαό.

Το κράτος δεν άσκησε καμία δίωξη. Η Δικαιοσύνη τους αθώωσε στη Χαλκίδα και σε άλλες δίκες, δείχνοντας χειροπιαστά ότι δεν υπάρχει Δικαιοσύνη, κράτος δικαίου, κι ο λαός δεν έχει να περιμένει τίποτε απ’ αυτή.

Κι ενώ οι βασανιστές και οι άλλοι φασίστες του Κράτους και του παρακράτους αφήνονται ανενόχλητοι, ταυτόχρονα συνεχίζεται το χτύπημα του λαϊκού κινήματος. Άλλοι όπως ο αγωνιστής Ψαρουδάκης κλείνονται στις φυλακές επειδή κριτίκαραν το περίφημο “στιγμιαίο” του Αρείου Πάγου που αθώωσε τους 104 ψευτοϋπουργούς. Στη μαζική διαδήλωση τις 25 του Μάη ενάντια στον αντεργατικό νόμο 300, εκατοντάδες αγωνιστές τρομοκρατούνται απ’ τις αύρες, ξυλοκοπούνται, τραυματίζονται, τέλος σκοτώνονται -όπως η γυναίκα στα Χαυτεία. Άλλοι πέφτουν θύματα της αστυνομικής τρομοκρατίας όπως ο αγωνιστής Σιδέρης.

Τέλος για άλλους όπως ο ηρωικός αγωνιστής Παναγούλης, οι φασίστες δεν δίστασαν να επιστρατεύσουν τα τελειότερα κι επιστημονικότερα μέσα τους: τη καμουφλαρισμένη σε “τροχαίο ατύχημα” δολοφονία. Ο Παναγούλης είχε την αφέλεια να πιστέψει ότι, σαν βουλευτής, μπορούσε να χώνει τη μύτη του σε μέρη απλησίαστα, να κάνει ατομικές έρευνες για τα αρχεία της ΕΣΑ, τη πολιτεία του φασίστα Αβέρωφ, τη Κύπρο κ.τ.λ. Είχε το θράσος να συλλαμβάνει τους φασίστες που τον παρακολουθούσαν χωρίς να τους παραδίνει στην Αστυνομία. Μέθοδες απαράδεκτες για σοβαρούς κοινοβουλευτικούς εκπροσώπους. Οι φασίστες λοιπόν αποφάσισαν να του κόψουν το “τσαμπουκά” όπως είπαν.

Η δολοφονία του Παναγούλη είναι συνάμα μεγάλων διαστάσεων εκφοβιστική και τρομοκρατική ενέργεια του συστήματος ενάντια στον Ελλ. Λαό και τους πρωτοπόρους αγωνιστές. Δεν είναι ενέργεια του παρακράτους για να σαμποτάρουν τον Καραμανλή, όπως ειπώθηκε, αλλά αντίθετα έργο του ενιαίου φασιστικού μηχανισμού μέσα κι έξω απ’ το επίσημο Κράτος, για να στερεώσει κι όχι ν’ ανατρέψει τον κοινοβουλευτισμό. Είναι υπενθύμιση στο λαό ότι υπάρχουν και χειρότερα, δηλ. η ανοικτή βία, κι άρα δεχτείτε τη σημερινή κατάσταση πού ναι καλύτερη απ’ τη Δικτατορία. Είναι προειδοποίηση για όσους δεν κάθονται “φρόνιμα” και τους λέει: καθίστε στ’ αυγά σας γιατί θα σας συντρίψουμε. Δολοφονούμε όταν θέλουμε και όπου θέλουμε, ακόμη και βουλευτή, χωρίς ν’ αφήνουμε ίχνη και χωρίς να μπορεί κανένας “σοβαρός” κύριος να ισχυριστεί ότι είναι δολοφόνος. Το Κράτος μας καλύπτει υιοθετώντας το τροχαίο και κουκουλώνοντας κρίσεις. Άρα, για το συμφέρον σας, καθίστε ήσυχα και δεν θα σας πειράξουμε. Αυτή είναι η Καραμανλική “Δημοκρατία”.

Καμία όμως τρομοκρατία δεν πρόκειται να πτοήσει τον αδάμαστο Ελλ. Λαό. Κανένας νόμος δεν πρόκειται να προστατέψει τους φασίστες, κανένα Δικαστήριο.

Ο λαός θα αγωνιστεί με όλα του τα μέσα για να τους τσακίσει, γιατί όντας ατιμώρητοι προετοιμάζονται ανενόχλητοι για να ξανακάτσουν στο σβέρκο του λαού μας. Έτσι αποφασίσαμε να εκτελέσουμε παραδειγματικά έναν από τους κυριώτερους αρχιβασανιστές, τον πασίγνωστο Ευάγγελο Μάλλιο. Ο αστυνόμος Μάλλιος δεν ήταν κανένα τσιράκι που εκτελούσε διαταγές ανωτέρων. Μαζί με τους ομοίους του Λάμπρου, Μπάμπαλη, Καραπαναγιώτη ήσαν τα αφεντικά στα μπουντρούμια της Μπουμπουλίνας και της Μεσογείων. Αυτοί αποφάσιζαν για τα βασανιστήρια, κι έπαιρναν μέρος σ’ αυτά. Χιλιάδες αγωνιστές υπέφεραν στα χέρια τους.

Σήμερα τα καθάρματα αυτά κυκλοφορούν ελεύθερα και κοροϊδεύουν τα θύματα τους και τον Ελλ. Λαό. Κανένας θεσμός δεν μπόρεσε να τους τιμωρήση. Ούτε η Βουλή, ούτε η Κυβέρνηση, ούτε η Δικαιοσύνη. Ο Ελλ. Λαός θα τους αναλάβη πια μόνος του. Το προηγούμενο της ατιμωρησίας του δοσιλογισμού δεν θα επαναληφθεί.

Σήμερα τα πράγματα ξεκαθάρισαν. Οι ψευδαισθήσεις ορισμένων γκρεμίστηκαν. Ο Καραμανλής με βήματα αργά αλλά σταθερά εκπλήρωσε την αποστολή που του είχαν αναθέσει αυτοί που τον έφεραν: Ο Κίσσιγκερ κι η χούντα κι όχι ο Ελλ. Λαός. Το συστηματικό κτίσιμο ενός καθεστώτος καλυμμένου φασισμού με κοινοβουλευτική βιτρίνα. Απαγορεύονται οι διαδηλώσεις, απαγορεύονται οι απεργίες, διώκονται οι συνδικαλιστές, απαγορεύεται η αφισσοκόληση, η διανομή τρικ, προστατεύονται με το “ιδιώνυμο” οι φασίστες της ασφάλειας ενώ διώκονται οι πολίτες κ.τ.λ.

Η σημερινή κατάσταση στην ουσία, εκτός από μερικές λεπτομέρειες, είναι η ίδια με τη φιλελευθεροποίηση του Παπαδόπουλου αν είχε πετύχει. Μπροστά σ’ ένα τέτοιο καθεστώς δημοκρατικής βιτρίνας και φασιστικής ουσίας, μπροστά στη πλήρη αποτυχία να εκπληρωθούν τα δύο παλλαϊκά αιτήματα: να φύγουν οι Αμερικάνοι ιμπεριαλιστές και να εκκαθαριστεί ο φασιστικός μηχανισμός, δεν απομένει στο λαό παρά ν’ αγωνιστεί με όλα τα μέσα για την εκπλήρωση αυτών των στόχων. Και με νόμιμα και με παράνομα μέσα, και με ειρηνικές ενέργειες και με δυναμικές. Για να ανατραπεί το καθεστώς της ιμπεριαλιστικής εξάρτησης, το καθεστώς της νέας τρομοκρατίας, το καθεστώς της εκμετάλλευσης απ’ τα ξένα και ντόπια μονοπώλια. Και ν’ ανοίξη τέλος ο δρόμος, για το χτίσιμο της Λαϊκής εξουσίας και του Σοσιαλισμού.

Επαναστατική Οργάνωση “17 ΝΟΕΜΒΡΗ”
Αθήνα Σεπτέμβρης 76

Κανένας νόμος δεν πρόκειται να προστατέψει τους φασίστες, κανένα Δικαστήριο δεν πρόκειται να αθωώσει τους βασανιστές. Για το λαό παραμένουν ένοχοι, εγκληματίες και πρέπει να λογοδοτήσουν.

Πηγή: 14 Δεκεμβρίου 1976: Η 17Ν εκτελεί τον αρχιβασανιστή της χούντας Ε. Μάλλιο