Never let a good crisis go to waste.
As European governments battle the coronavirus pandemic, interest groups close to the European Union lawmaking machine are actively pushing EU officials to delay deadlines and postpone implementation of legislation.
From the car industry to plastics producers, health care companies and banks, industries are urging lawmakers to introduce “regulatory relief” with a variety of requests on standards and enforcement at EU level.
To some, its a fair ask that will help industries cope with the scale of the crisis as Europes economy stutters. To others, its a cynical attempt to avoid tougher rules that industry was lobbying against even before the crisis.
Several corporate lobbies have been “jumping at the opportunity to use the pandemic to recycle old lobbying demands. Quite shamelessly, in some cases,” said Margarida Silva, a campaigner at the transparency NGO Corporate Europe Observatory.
Industry says the scale of the coronavirus disruption means the businesses just dont have the time to scrutinize or provide input.
The position of business leaders, expressed in numerous letters to EU leaders and policymakers, is that the crisis is forcing them to overhaul their supply chains, close shops, restructure their workforce and revisit their financial plans. They say incoming regulation adds stress that should be avoided for now.
“The coronavirus pandemic is putting European companies under tremendous pressure … We urge you that an instrument be established which will allow the Commission to postpone the deadline for new regulatory obligations which would otherwise take effect during the crisis,” SME Europe, which represents smaller businesses, wrote in a letter to EU presidents Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen at the end of March. The International Monetary Fund projects that GDP in the eurozone will contract by 7.5 percent this year.
But campaigners fear the blocs attempts to tighten environmental and consumer protections will now be on ice until after the pandemic, and that the implications could run far beyond the health care crisis.
“A few months back, if you said, Actually, environmental protections are not priority, you would have everyone immediately criticizing,” said Silva. “And now you can say that the corona crisis means we can wait.”
No time for paperwork
Before the coronavirus outbreak hit Europe, the von der Leyen Commission put climate and environmental concerns at the head of its agenda.
In the tech sector, two key lobby groups this month said they were “concerned about the deadline for compliance with new requirements for external power supplies,” a regulation putting higher requirements on the energy efficiency of chargers for electronic devices.
Asking for a six-month suspension of the deadline, the Consumer Technology Association and the Information Technology Industry Council said the decision would be “proportionate, reasonable and cost-free” and offer “some badly needed relief to businesses.”
On Tuesday, 35 CEOs of major European companies publicly committed to an initiative organized by French MEP Pascal Canfin pledging for post-crisis investment packages to prioritize climate and biodiversity goals.
Some of those same companies, including carmaker Renault and energy giant ENGIE, on April 10 asked to delay green rules via a letter from BusinessEurope, Europes largest business lobby. It asked the Commission to “extend certain deadlines to implement EU legislation,” and put on hold “all nonessential environment and climate-related consultations for stakeholder engagement.”
Peter Sennekamp, BusinessEuropes director of communications, stressed they were “not calling to postpone any of the Green Deal ambitions, but simply to extend some of the deadlines for the consultations that are ongoing,” adding that pushing these back by a few months “would not endanger the whole timeline.”
Industry says the scale of the coronavirus disruption means the businesses just dont have the time to scrutinize or provide input to the many pieces of climate-related legislation thats in the works.
Auto lobbyist Eric-Mark Huitema told POLITICO hes also asked the Commission “to stop the crazy consultations that are still going on.” Members of his organization, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), “are currently fighting for survival. We dont have the time to fill in questionnaires,” he said.
Huitemas lobby and three others in March wrote to von der Leyen requesting a meeting to discuss their need for an “adjustment” to the timing of “existing and future” EU law, interpreted by green campaigners as an attack on heavily penalizing carbon dioxide emissions limits taking effect this year.
The car industry tallies the damage from coronavirus on production at a loss of almost 1.5 million vehicles so far. Similarly, global airline lobby IATAs latest estimates for Europe puts the fallout at $89 billion in lost revenue for 2020.
The last global crisis prompted a wave of new regulations for the finance industry.
Internal documents from IATA, published by Greenpeace, show a range of deferrals and discounts theyre hoping to secure on airport charges and air traffic control fees. The lobby has also been active on passenger rights regulation, climate change obligations and taxes.
The airlines “are using their position to try and push through what they have been wanting for years,” said Patrick Gibbels, director of Gibbels Public Affairs, a consultancy based in Brussels, which lobbies on behalf of claims agencies who take airlines to court over passenger rights issues. “They are basically saying, Just bail us out, remove these pesky passenger rights for now and lets talk about it later. We all know that once this happens, it is very difficult to get back from.”
Not all lobbyists are supportive of the bombardment.
Lorenzo Torti, a Brussels-based manager for Flint Global, said this is not the time for industry — “unless its really necessary” — to send a letter to Commission officials asking for regulations to be postponed.
“It could look insensitive at the moment and the Commission is well aware that the non-essential things are being postponed,” he said.
Lending a hand
Brussels move to ease requirements on the health care industry through the delay to medical device rules was widely deemed a no-brainer.
“With all our systems under enormous pressure, especially our medical devices industry, it is time to press the pause button on implementation … until such time as things return to normal,” Parliament Vice President Mairead McGuinness said in advance of the approval.
“We must now ensure that all those who can manufacture ventilators, masks, tests and other medical devices do so and focus on addressing the current crisis,” said German conservative MEP Peter Liese, the health spokesperson for the European Peoples Party.
EU regulators have also been quick to cut red tape for banks, while demanding in exchange that they play a positive role to keep businesses and households on life support during the virus outbreak.
VW officials have announced the closures for its brand plants due to coronavirus | Sean Gallup/Getty Images
The last global crisis prompted a wave of new regulations for the finance industry. This time aroundRead More – Source