For the past forty years, economic policy has been dominated by neo-liberal assumptions that have dictated trade integration, liberalization of domestic markets, de-regulation of industry, flexibility of labour markets and generally the withdrawal of the state from economic regulation. – This is not news. What has been less clear is how these policies came to dominate the minds of our politicians, and in particular how this happened in Europe.

Mark Taylor
Taylor is working at FAFO, a political research institute based in Oslo.
Published date: October 19, 2012

A feature documentary about the growing influence of lobbying on the decision-making in the European Institutions. A film that explores the mechanisms and opportunities of the ‘Brussels Business’ as well as its repercussions.

Neo-liberal ideology was victorious early on in the Anglo-Saxon economies of the US and the UK and then exported around the globe via international institutions, bilateral investment agreements and in some cases by the “disaster capitalism” described by Naomi Klein. But in Europe, neo-liberalism was delivered up to decision-makers by well organized lobbies of business interests operating as a trans-national club of industrialists. By describing the evolution of lobbying in and around the institutions of the EU, The Brussels Business does far more than just explain lobbying or describe how neo-liberalism captured Europe.

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The film makes a convincing argument that lobbying is central to understanding how and why the EU project became captive to a neo-liberal ideological agenda. In the process, the film gives us a vital lesson in the history of Europe’s arrival at the crisis in which it finds itself today. For those Europeans on the right and the left who despise the EU for its democratic deficit and remoteness, the film will confirm their worst fears. For those progressives who still believe the EU could be a vehicle for social solidarity and economic progress, this film should be mandatory viewing. Why? Because The Brussels Business makes clear that, in the absence of a well-organized grassroots counter-force to the interests of business, a belief in the ability of political and economic institutions of the EU to deliver progress is simply delusional. in The brussels business we meet important examples of the activists and lobbyists who people the political struggles over policy in the EU.

The film traces the rise of lobbying, in particular the role of the European Round Table of industrialists, and of resistance to it. It marks the key historical moments where lobbying has played a role in decision-making and in the (largely failed) attempts to regulate the business of lobbying at the EU. The film tackles difficult terrain very well. The problem with making a film about networks of power is not just that they are hidden (and purposefully so), but also that they are boring: in reality, men (mostly) in suits, sit in seminars, write reports, send letters …

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