UndueInfluenceCoverBrussels, 28 February 2022

Droit au Droit is releasing today an extensive report detailing the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) efforts to influence European policy. “UNDUE INFLUENCE: an investigative report on foreign interference by the United Arab Emirates in the democratic processes of the European Union”, reveals the scale and intensity of the UAE’s lobbying efforts across the EU.

Based on hundreds of person/hours of meticulous research through public records, and interviews with dozens of current and former Members of Parliament; Diplomats and senior officials; academics, journalists and other “insiders”, the report exposes the strategy and scale of the UAE’s lobbying campaign across the EU institutions and wider “Brussels bubble”- channelled through policy centres, think tanks and consultancy firms with close ties to the UAE establishment. Without serious steps to address the undue influence and access by those who do not share our values;  the EU’s democratic processes will remain extremely vulnerable, and its integrity on key principles such as human rights highly susceptible to the interests of human rights violators. 

The report’s authors conclude that the EU and its democratic processes remain vulnerable to foreign influence campaigns without real steps to tighten up regulations on the registration of organisations and lobbyists working in Brussels on behalf of foreign governments, proper training and support for EU officials, and extending checks and balances against foreign interference. The report contains specific recommendations for the key EU institutions to take needed steps to tighten up protections against foreign interference. 

In addition to traditional diplomacy, the UAE relies on soft power through the creation of circles of persuasive pressure and echo chambers for foreign agendas, aiming to persuade European policy makers within the European institutions, including the European Parliament, that they are advancing their own political interests, and promoting European “way of life” and values, all the while pushing a foreign agenda that runs contrary to EU human rights principles, foreign policy, and security interests. Human rights are in the DNA of the European Union, while the UAE’s human rights record is a clear demonstration of intolerance, repression, and the targeting of peaceful dissidents. 

 Droit au Droit’s report untangles the web of influence spread across Europe and elsewhere, and looks at the impact of the UAE’s strategy on EU policy thinking. Key findings include: 

  • Targeted campaigns across the EU institutions, led by the UAE Embassy in Brussels and the EU-UAE Parliamentary Friendship Group, marshalling their extensive access to water down criticism and attempts to condemn their human rights record 
  • A network of prominent consultancies hired to develop media campaigns which shine a positive light on the UAE and bring the EU narrative into closer alignment with UAE foreign policy. The numerous cases studied expose gaping loopholes in the EU’s Transparency Register and regulations on lobbying 
  • Detailing the wider network of Brussels-based think tanks, policy centres, discussion platforms and media outlets founded by Emirati citizens with clear links to the UAE establishment, and promoting a pro-UAE narrative 
  • Targeted media campaigns and events organised with money from Ali Hamad al-Shamsi, a Minister of State held responsible for a domestic campaign of torture, murder and enforced disappearances while heading the UAE state security apparatus. 
  • The wide range of former high-level European officials, including Baroness Ashton, and Bernardino Léon, former EU Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean, on the board of UAE-associated policy centres and think tanks, or taken up positions in the UAE after their term in Brussels came to an end. 

Download the full report (pdf format)

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