The Risk-Monger

Friends of the Earth Europe receives around three quarters of a million euros every year from the European Commission. This is money from European taxpayers given freely and without any accountability so that Friends of the Earth directors can more easily participate in European debates on the environment, engage in dialogue with other stakeholders and represent its members at EU sponsored events (like Green Week).

This is how the European Commission justifies why it gives Friends of the Earth’s European office three quarters of a million euros annually and more than eight million euros since 1997. The problem is that Friends of the Earth does not fulfil any of the Commission’s objectives with the funds it receives from the public purse. It does not actively participate in DG Environment public events like Green Week and it does not engage in dialogue with other stakeholders (unless you consider spreading anti-industry bias and slander as “stakeholder dialogue”). Rather Friends of the Earth uses this public money to preach bias and prejudice to its supporters.

Much of the anti-industry prejudice and mistruths propagating among European activists and policy-makers has been fanned by malicious programmes initiated by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth through their Brussels-based “anti-lobbying” lobby front-group: ALTER-EU. Their abuse of social media tools and clever communications campaigns have been effective in unfairly stigmatising industrial actors, preventing them from being able to participate fully in European debates.

Some examples of how they misrepresent reality to mislead the public:

  • On their website, they caricature EU industry representatives as obtuse, rude fat cats stuffing suitcases of money into the pockets of corrupt EU officials. I’ve never actually seen or done this but this seems to be an entrenched public image (and often inhibiting EU officials from listening to industry concerns). On another site, Young, Friends of the Earth is investing this public endowment in ensuring that the youth will be equally biased against job creators and service providers.
  • Bankers are regularly portrayed not only as thieves and liars, but also as being directly responsible for large-scale environmental and social destruction. We are repeatedly reminded of their belief that any action that supports the banking industry automatically hurts the public. While it is populist to run anti-bank campaigns, Friends of the Earth do not staff qualified economists to legitimise the claims emanating from their anti-capitalist religion.
  • They present a fictional image of lobbying that is surreal and myopic for anyone who has ever worked in Brussels. A quote from their website, for example: “Thousands of corporate lobbyists roam the corridors of power in Brussels, exercising undue and unclear influence on policy-making.” (Screenshot) Where exactly do these people roam? Thousands? Just milling about? Like vultures? Really now.

There is no factual evidence given – anecdotes are enough to run effective communications campaigns. People associated with Friends of the Earth may think this is good fun, but the more they repeat these lies, the more people believe them, and the less open officials are to consider interests from those who innovate, create jobs and contribute to society (confirmation bias entrenched with EU funding).

In effect, Friends of the Earth are using the ink from the public money they receive to poison the well in EU policy debates. They are not using Life+ funds to protect the environment, but rather to create an environment of animosity and mistrust. Friends of the Earth-Europe’s misleading attacks and willful spreading of bias and anti-corporate prejudice is akin to activities promoted by hate groups and should be censored rather than funded.

Don’t get me wrong. We do need watch-dog organisations to keep policy actors honest and representative. We do not need Rottweilers who go around thinking they can do or say anything that fits their narrow, mindless view of reality in order to poison the public perception of important themes like innovation and competitiveness. If FOE-Europe were to contribute productively to environmental debates and offer realistic solutions instead of spending all of their time and energy funding campaigns that paste the image of those they disagree with, I would be the first to defend their use of public funds. But who is the watch-dog of the watch-dogs?

The Risk-Monger cannot understand why the European Commission continues to fund these anarchists. Something needs to be done to restrict this scourge on open public debate in Brussels. As the next funding round for 2014 is being decided, I feel there should be some open discussion (kind of like the transparency Friends of the Earth is demanding from others) on whether this is a good use of public funds. They have killed off stakeholder dialogue so what is the point of funding them just to dance on the grave of open engagement.

Perhaps we should take a page out of their playbook and start a petition drive to request that the European Commission be more accountable with how DG Environment awards its grants to prevent such misuse in future.

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