Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Artistic protest against industry lobby power in EU quarter

On 2nd February, in the middle of the afternoon, an unusual demonstration took place in Brussels. Organised by a collective of Brussels-based citizens and activists aiming to tackle corporate lobbying power with an artistic take, it took the form of a guided tour focusing on the EU Quarter's corporate lobbying hotspots.

A bike transformed into a mobile anti-lobbying paintings gallery

Starting from Rond-Point Schuman, home to the European Council, Commission and BP headquarters, the visit stopped in front of the offices of many of the big names on the Brussels corporate lobbying scene: the thinks-tanks Friends of Europe and the Security and Defence Agenda, chemical and pharma giant Bayer, the European Banking Federation... The burning issue of corporate dominance in the Commission's expert groups was mentioned in the entrance to the Borschette Centre, and the little tree planted in 2001 by SEAP (one of the commercial lobbyists' professional associations in Brussels) right outside the Parliament was also paid a visit to highlight the current lack of transparency in EU lobbying practices (the tree itself is not doing very well it seems). Carrying paintings, flyers, stickers and all the visually creative material designed for the occasion, the participants sang a special “lobbyist song” at each stop, with lyrics set to the chords of an old French pop classic, “L'opportuniste” by Jacques Dutronc.

Singing in front of the European Training Institute, the Brussels lobbyists' school

When the 60 participants in the tour reached their final destination, the Place du Luxembourg, a samba band and more people were waiting for them. A theatrical protest action had been prepared: two industry lobbyists quietly sipping a beer in an Irish pub were suddenly removed from their seats and on the spot were put on mock trial; the sentence was to have them covered with tar and feathers immediately, and... the sentence was executed!

The two guys were afterwards carried around on a beam, and the protesters tried to deliver them to the European Parliament (but the police refused to let them in). Good humour, a strong message to EU authorities to halt the scandal of corporate influence over EU policies... and a reminder that vigilante justice is better staged than experienced :)

The (currently without a name) collective of citizens plans to organise similar activities throughout the year, hoping to bring more visibility to the dominance of industry lobbyists in the EU quarter. This could make the corporate lobbying problem much more well-known among Brussels citizens: a very welcome development!


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