A fight for human interaction — Jockeying over an EU-US tech summit — Carmakers push back on EU green rules – POLITICO

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

By LILI BAYER

Tips tales traumas to the POLITICO Brussels Team at @liliebayer or [email protected] | View in your browser

Good afternoon and welcome back to EU Influence.

LOBBYING THE EU

FIND ME A HUMAN: A major consumer rights group is serving up plaudits for the European Commission for its new plan to boost protections for customers seeking out financial services.

The Berlaymont wants to give people the right to both speak to a human being and to guarantee consumers have a “withdrawal button” in case they change their mind. The effort would overhaul the so-called Distance Marketing of Financial Services Directive.

“In an era where over-indebtedness is one click away, this proposal comes at the right time,” Monique Goyens, head of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), said in a statement.

“For too long now, consumers have been falling victim to financial offers that are simply too good to be true, with next to no protection due to completely outdated legislation. This proposal will bring consumer rights in financial services into the digital age.”

AIM HIGHER: EU and US officials can’t just focus on easy wins in their nascent attempts to develop a transatlantic forum for hashing out policy issues, a group of 11 trade associations pleaded in a letter sent to both Washington and Brussels.

The so-called EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) is poised to hold its second meeting on Sunday and Monday amid skepticism about what it might be able to achieve. While the diplomatic forum has the goal of aligning American and European policies in areas such as microchips, robots, artificial intelligence and trade, the group’s progress is still in its infancy since holding its inaugural meeting last September.

“While the focus on ‘low hanging fruit’ is acceptable as a first step, decision-makers should not lose sight of the bigger picture and strategic objectives,” the groups said in their letter.

“The TTC’s fundamental role,” the group wrote, “should be to develop common approaches to shared challenges” in areas such as research, keeping the internet functioning and interoperable, establishing consistent trade rules, investing in digital infrastructure and strengthening the supply chain.

“The TTC should serve address and resolve differences that may include a common approach,” the groups, which DigitalEurope, Eurochambres and the European Round Table for Industry, wrote.

CAR LOBBY LATEST: The EU should hold off until 2028 on its decision about when to end the sale of new combustion engine cars, the head of BMW and the EU’s chief car lobbyist told French President Emmanuel Macron in a letter dated May 6 and obtained by POLITICO’s Joshua Posaner.

Currently, the EU has set the end date at 2035, but BMW CEO Oliver Zipse, who is also the president of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), argued “it is premature to fix a target for 2035.” His rationale: Making battery-powered cars, the only vehicles able to meet the EU’s planned emissions limits, relies on foreign suppliers for the raw materials in batteries.

“Raw material mining and refining for battery materials is mainly located outside of Europe, some of it heavily located in high-risk countries,” Zipse wrote.

BRANDS TAKE BACK (SOME) CONTROL: New EU antitrust rules for vertical distribution will give brands greater powers to set prices and conditions with online and offline retailers. There will also be new restrictions for brands that sell their goods directly to web customers.

Big Tech doesn’t approve. The Computer & Communications Industry Association — a trade group representing Google, Amazon, Meta Platforms and Apple — warned the rules would allow brands and suppliers to discriminate against online sales channels and sell offline, reports my colleague Samuel Stolton.

“During the COVID lockdowns, many traditional businesses found their way online. Now the Commission wants them to move back offline again,” said Mathilde Adjutor, a policy manager at CCIA. “With these changes, anticompetitive agreements that would be illegal for big brands and large merchants offline will become effectively legal online,” she said.

EU TRANSPARENCY

ENERGY LOBBYING: The NGO Corporate Europe Observatory revealed this week that the CEOs of six energy companies — Shell, BP, Total, ENI, E.ON and Vattenfall — met Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson on the day the Commission released details about its RePowerEU initiative, its plan to move Europe away from Russian fossil fuels, and agreed to set up an industry task force to determine which measures are “feasible.”

“We’re facing a devastating climate emergency and a huge cost-of-living crisis, but rather than set up an energy poverty task force, the Commission is bringing in fossil fuel CEOs and experts who are telling it not to introduce a price cap or intervention in the energy market,” Pascoe Sabido, researcher and campaigner at the Corporate Europe Observatory, said in a statement.

“The task force should be scrapped. If the Commission wants the industry’s views, then they must set up a public hearing so we can all hear what they have to say, rather than keeping it behind closed doors,” he said, adding that “if we want to end our reliance on gas, Russian or otherwise, then we need to end the relationship between the fossil fuel industry and decision-makers, cutting fossil fuel interests out of our political system.”

Commission response: “When drawing up policy, the Commission speaks to all relevant stakeholders who are crucial to make the shift happen on the ground,” a commission spokesperson told EU Influence when asked about Corporate Europe Observatory’s comments. “But at the end of the day, it is the Commission that decides on the policy orientation, always acting in the common European interest, and not in the interest of one or another sector.”

Company perspective: A spokesperson for Vattenfall told EU Influence that the company “was pleased to be invited” to the meeting but noted it was not part of “the mentioned industry task force.” The spokesperson noted said “we did get the chance during this meeting to share with President von der Leyen Vattenfall’s strong ambitions regarding decarbonisation and becoming fossil free within one generation.”

**Ausrinė Armonaitėminister of the economy and innovation, Lithuania, is joining POLITICO Live’s Competitive Europe Summit on June 15-16 to share her views on the European Chips Act. Keen to join? Register here.**

AROUND THE CONTINENT

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer appointed Norbert Totschnig As the country’s new agriculture minister, replacing Elisabeth Köstinger, who announced her resignation earlier this week. Totschnig is the director of the Bauernbund, an umbrella farmers’ union that is part of Nehammer’s center-right People’s Party, report my colleagues Eddy Wax and Laurenz Gehrke.

Totschnig’s Bauernbund has been pushing Nehammer this month to “correct the course” of the European Green Deal and give food security more priority over environmental progress. The outgoing minister Köstinger is one of the Bauernbund’s vice presidents, and she started her EU political career as a Bauernbund-appointed MEP candidate.

INFLUENCERS

AbbVie has appointed Jerome Bouyer as senior vice president of Europe.

The Center for Information Policy Leadership has appointed Natascha Gerlach as the organization’s new director of EU privacy and data policy.

Michael Hunnicke has been appointed as head of EU public affairs for the energy and water efficiency company Grundfos’ newly established Brussels office.

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