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September 8, 2016

Tech giants up lobbying spend as EU gets tougher on regulations

Google among top spenders with 15-20% rise in lobbying budget last year.

By CBR Staff Writer

US technology majors Google and Facebook are among the global companies that have increased their spending on lobbying in Brussels, as the European Commission looks to frame new business regulation.

Google’s spending on lobbying European Union officials and lawmakers went up by nearly 15-20% last year compared to 2014, according to a new annual filing by search engine giant to the EU's Transparency Register.

A review by Reuters of EU lobbying budgets of several leading US firms showed that Google figured among the top spenders, with a budget of €4.25-4.50m in 2015. Its spending stood at €1.25-1.5m in 2013.

Over the past two years, Google has received three sets of charges by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

A spokesman of Google told the publication that its 14 employees who did lobbying in Brussels were there to give information.

He said: "European politicians have many questions for Google and about the Internet. We're working hard to answer those questions, helping policymakers understand our business and the opportunity for European businesses to grow online.”

Compared to Google, Apple spent €800,000-900,000 on lobbying last year, with five part-time employees.

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Transparency International, head of advocacy EU integrity, Daniel Freund said that an expansion of regulatory powers for the Commission and European Parliament in the past few years has led to Brussels rivaling Washington in having professional lobbyists.

Freund said: “A strong lobbying presence would smooth relations with the EU institutions, establish personal relationships, prevent spats.

“The (2009) Lisbon Treaty means more competences have shifted to Brussels and companies are waking up to this fact.”

Facebook‘s spending on lobbying in Brussels is much lower than that of Google. The social networking site spent €700,000-800,000 last year.

The company, which employed only two people last year, is currently in the process of expanding its team in the city.

Facebook’s spokewoman said: “Our team has increased in size as our company has grown and as such we are currently recruiting one extra person.”

Amazon, in its filing, said that it has six employees on EU lobbying, with a budget of €1.5-1.75m.

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