Brussels Activists Occupy Offices of European Chemical Lobby

Brussels, 12-12-2001 - In connection with the EU summit of Laeken, an
international coalition of activists promoting a
different globalisation have this morning occupied the
offices of CEFIC, the European lobby group of the
chemical industry. The group of activists with roots
in the radical environmental movement wants to
denounce the role of the chemical industry in blocking
any effective European environmental policy, in a
direct and nonviolent way. CEFIC constitutes a symbol
of the undemocratic character of the EU, where
corporations have a major influence on policy via
their lobbygroups. The activist wish to focus on the
informal power centres instead of the official one.

Chemical industry and the environment: responsibility
versus 'voluntary action'

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CEFIC (European chemical industry federation) was
founded in 1972 consists of a network of big and
smaller corporations, national chemistry federations
and lobby organisations. The objective of the group is
'to be a reliable representative of the chemical
industry and offer our members the services they need,
maximise their benefits and in doing so, reduce their
costs'. The members of CEFIC are responsible for about
30% of the world-wide production of chemicals and for
a number of current environmental problems as well.
For during the production, as well as in use, and on
disposal synthetic chemicals can release damaging
substances which today are ubiquitous in in water,
food, the earth and in living organisms. In addition,
the chemical industry is extremely energy intensive.
In this way, the sector contributes to climate change.

The chemical industry forms an important part of
environmental problems, on top of that, she tries
through her lobby organisation CEFIC to block an
effective European environmental policy. In order to
do that, the organisation tries to spread a positive
image of the chemical industry. 'Chemistry makes a
world of difference' is not the company's slogan by
coincidence. CEFIC feels they 'play an important role
to make the world a better place'. In other words, the
chemical industry poses as part of the solution, in
stead of being the problem. Voluntary action of the
industry would be more effective than restrictive
policy, CEFIC argues. Two projects that have to
support that active image are 'Responsible Care' and
the 'Voluntary Energy Efficiency Programme'. The
'Responsible Care' program is designed to promote and
stimulate voluntary initiatives of the chemical
industry in the fields of health, safety and the
environment. The 'Voluntary Energy Efficiency
Programme' (VEEP), is supposed to form the answer to
the Kyoto-protocol, with which the chemical industry
binds itself to a 20% improvement of energy efficiency
by 2005. The projects get full attention on the
website of CEFIC. The concrete results, however, are
nowhere to be found, while CEFIC uses these programs
to pressure governments to stop new policy, binding
rules and control mechanisms. For example the VEEP has
as a condition that no new energy taxes will be put in
place. CEFIC also opposes the implementation of
CO2-tax although 9 out of 15 member states have
already implemented such a tax. For CEFIC the Kyoto
protocol can only take place if it doesn?t obstruct
the competitiveness and opportunities for growth of
the current chemical industry. But if CEFIC wants to
pursue the interests of the chemical industry no
matter what, voluntary action will never provide a
solution! Small reductions in pollution will become
insignificant because of a general increase of
productivity. CEFIC´s efforts to position the chemical
industry as part of the solution are accompanied by
close contacts with both the European Commission and
the European Parliament. This combination proves to be
quite successful. CEFIC played an important role in
the establishing of the European chemical policy. Old
regulation was full of holes and lacunas. The recent
vote in the European Parliament again showed the power
of the short term interests of the chemical industry:
Parliament members voted to further weaken controls of
dangerous chemicals proposed by the commission!

Europe incorporated


The coalition of activists chooses CEFIC not only as
their target because it is opposing an effective
European environmental policy. The organisation was
picked as a target because it symbolises the
disproportional impact of big corporations in
designing the present form of the European Union and
the current form of globalisation. The initiative, the
goals and the form of present day European Union have
not been decided by the population, but by big
economic interests. Most clear example is the
achievements of the European Round Table of
Industrialists (ERT), in which some CEFIC members are
also active, like Bayer, British Petroleum and Solvay.
Almost al of the points proposed by the ERT in the
late eighties were implemented one by one or are in
the process of being implemented: the single market,
deregulations and privatisations, benchmarking and the
expansion of the European infrastructure, so-called
Trans European Networks (TEN). The biggest part of
these 12000 km of new highways (planned for 2002),
although very controversial and widely opposed, have
already been realised. The activist coalition realises
that companies are not the only ones to lobby. Trade
Unions and NGO´s also try to influence politics. But,
the balance of power in this field is very uneven:
commercial interests have far more financial means to
spend on lobbying and marketing. At every important
summit, be it EU, Kyoto or WTO, thousands of lobbyists
are present to press their interests. Intensive and
privileged contacts with the policy makers do the rest
of the work.

Why an occupation?


The anticapitalist environmental movement is one of
the driving forces in the broad movement against
capitalist globalisation. She aspires to build a
planet-wide society based on environmental and social
justice. We feel that this is impossible within the
current context, which is based on
profit-maximalisation and economic growth and which
allows for transnational corporations to wield ever
increasing power through their efficient lobby and
privileged contacts.

As opposed to the actions in Prague and Genoa, in
which some of the occupants of this action took part,
we are not focussing on the conference centre or the
'red zone'. The fixation on the so thought centre of
decision making has led to heads of state literally
fencing themselves off from concerned citizens with
riot police, clouds of tear gas and even gunfire.
Hiding themselves in their fortress further diminishes
their legitimacy. Although this focus has previously
been an important stimulus for the movement against
capitalist globalisation, it has lost its surprise
effect and ends in a warzone. But this does not mean
that we feel our anger can be expressed in a
traditional legal demonstration where the route has
been determined on forehand, nor does it allow for
effective change.

An important critique that anticapitalists, who
earlier tried to stop different summits, is that the
agenda is very much aligned with the desires of
transnationals in stead of common people or nature.
The European capital is a nest for headquarters of
these corporations and their lobbygroups. With the
credo 'We don't need to go to Laken, the real
decisions are made elsewhere anyway!', we are using
nonviolent direct action to shut down maybe not the
official, but a very important informal European
centre of power for the day.

The participants of this action


The activists occupying CEFIC are mainly Dutch and
Belgian but some are Spanish, Italian, German or

Wildgroei is a Belgian direct action group that has
opposed various infrastructure projects, such as the
closing of the Antwerp Ring Road.
( [Dutch])
The Environment Workinggroup of JNM is campaigner for
climate justice, organic agriculture and against
genetic engineering. (
ASEED is Action for Solidarity, Equality and
Ecological Development, a grassroots network aiming at
the fundamental causes of the ecological and social
crisis. ( [English])
Green Front, EarthFirst! Netherlands is a convenient
banner for uncompromising ecologists, and well known
in the Netherlands for opposing the Betuwelijn, the
most important European cargo-line under construction
from Rotterdam to the Ruhr-area. (
Ecological Projectcentre The Wasp is a radical
environmental collective in Leuven

In sync with this action we are publishing a brochure
on Cefic, the European industrial lobby, and more
backgrounds behind this action. It is online at